Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., came out against a surveillance bill sponsored by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., citing concerns that it could hurt the nation’s ability to combat terrorists like Islamic State.
“Many of these fighters are familiar with America’s intelligence capabilities and many are savvy with communications: these are terrorists who know how to use encryption and they know how to change devices frequently,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “That’s part of the reason why I’m so strongly opposed to the legislation.”
McConnell is set to become majority leader in the next Congress and his comments will likely make it more difficult for the bill to advance. The Senate is expected to vote on cloture on whether to take up the bill Tuesday evening and 60 votes are needed to move ahead.
McConnell added that he believes the bill would curtail the intelligence community’s surveillance powers and that would “end one of our nation’s critical capabilities to gather significant intelligence on terrorist threats.”
“This is the worst possible time to be tying our hands behind our backs,” McConnell said. McConnell also noted that the current law doesn’t expire until June, giving Congress plenty of time to write a new bill.
Leahy’s bill would reconfigure how the National Security Agency, in its effort to find terrorists, collects digital data on Americans.
On the floor, Leahy responded that the bill is bipartisan and that ISIL, also known as ISIS, still became a presence and threat despite NSA having its current powers.
“The NSA and all our intelligence community had every single tool the Republican leader advocates for … [but] there was not one single alarm bell that rang. So let’s deal with facts not hypotheses,” Leahy said.
Leahy later said that the bill is supported by the a range of groups including the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union
“We cannot afford to delay action on these reforms any longer, as the American people continue to demand stronger protections for their privacy,” Leahy said. “Unfortunately, some would rather use scare tactics than legislate.”
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