New bill looks to rein in some of NSA's most controversial spying practices

Proving that Democrats and Republicans can indeed work together, several legislators delivered a draft bill this week that proposes a wide-ranging reform package aimed at reining in how the government can spy on American citizens.

The Guardian reported that four U.S. senators proposed the first comprehensive reform bill aimed at limiting covert surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA).

The top-secret disclosures were first made public in June by Edward Snowden, the former NSA computer specialist who leaked classified documents about mass surveillance efforts taking place by the U.S. and U.K. governments.

Republican Senator Rand Paul joined forces with Democratic Senators Ron Wyden, Mark Udall and Richard Blumenthal to unveil the Intelligence Oversight and Surveillance Reform Act, the first such legislation created since the leaks.

Sea change

In a rare show of solidarity, the reform bill combines competing proposals already on the table, while borrowing ideas from a dozen other draft bills that have been circulating over the summer.

"We are introducing legislation that is the most comprehensive bipartisan intelligence reform proposal since the disclosures of last June," Wyden remarked at a press conference on Capitol Hill this week, referring to the leaks as a "sea change in the way the public views the surveillance system."

The wide-ranging reforms proposed include prohibiting the NSA's practice of collecting Americans' phone records en masse, permitted under Section 215 of the Patriot Act and perhaps the most controversial practice Snowden's leaks revealed.

Additionally, the bill would look to keep a similar scoop up of internet communications from happening again (the practice was halted in 2011) as well as shutter the "backdoors" that reportedly granted the NSA access to internet data.

A congressional committee will begin debating the proposed reforms in Washington today, where national intelligence directors are expected to push back hard against any reduction of their current surveillance powers.

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