WASHINGTON -- The top senator on the Senate Judiciary Committee said on Sunday that he could live with the president’s changes to the NSA’s bulk collection of telephone data, even if they didn’t go as far as he would like.
Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) was asked if he would fight the president’s proposal to transition control of telephone metadata from under the NSA to a different entity.
“No,” he replied. “I think we have a way that we can do this. It is not a question of fighting the president. The question is: What is Congress going to do on this? I think there has been too much leeway. As you know, the FISA court for example, was very critical a few years ago about the abuses of the procedures we had to collect data and asked them to clamp down. I worry because we have just seen what happened --for example, the Snowden thing -- there is so much stuff stolen we still don’t know everything that was stolen. And that worries you. They have your telephone calls, Gen. Hayden’s telephone calls, my telephone calls. Where is all this going? I would rather have somebody overseeing where you get it.”
Though a bit vague, the response from Leahy does suggest that the president’s broad outlines of NSA reforms earned him some cover on Capitol Hill. The Vermont Democrat previously had introduced a bill to limit the collection of phone records under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; not merely move it to some other controlling entity.
But Leahy seemed okay with the notion that come March 28, a group of officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder, will implement a plan to transition the telephone metadata away from the NSA and into the authority of a third party or private group.