WASHINGTON — Lawmakers opposed to White House-run surveillance programs welcomed the administration’s announcement Tuesday that it would seek legislation to prevent the National Security Agency from storing bulk phone records of Americans.
At the same time the senators pressed the administration to go further.
“This is the start of the end of dragnet surveillance in America,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters.
The unusual bipartisan alliance of Wyden, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) has continuously pressured the White House over its secret spying techniques.
While awaiting congressional approval for the administration’s proposed plan, the NSA should immediately halt further collection of telephone records unless officials have court-approved warrants, the senators said.
“They can stop immediately,” said Paul, who is known for his libertarian views. “There’s nothing forcing them to keep collecting the data.”
“Turn off the vacuum cleaner,” Udall said.
The administration said Tuesday that it would seek to end the NSA’s practice of storing five years of phone records under a secret surveillance program that was disclosed by former government contractor Edward Snowden.
The records — which include information about numbers dialed and length of calls but not the contents of conversations — would continue to be stored by telephone companies and made available to the NSA with a court warrant.
Congress is being asked to approve the administration’s new plan, and legislation was introduced Tuesday by leaders of the House Intelligence Committee that would largely do so. Senators are considering additional changes to further tighten the administration’s surveillance work.