NSA

House Committee Urges DOJ to Support NSA Reforms

Or they could lose even more power

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Members of Congress who want to end the National Security Agency's mass collection of Americans' phone data sharply warned the Obama administration on Tuesday to get behind a bill to end the controversial practice, or risk losing the counter-terrorism powers provided by the post-9/11 Patriot Act.

Deriding the paucity of legislative alternatives after President Obama's announcement last month that he wants to transfer the responsibility for bulk collection out of the NSA, congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, the co-sponsor of the USA Freedom Act, told deputy attorney general James Cole at a House judiciary committee hearing that "you will get nothing" if the administration does not endorse the bill.

Asked why the Justice Department had not taken a position on the bill, Cole said: "The Department of Justice is a big place."

Cole said that his hesitation was prompted by an internal administration review of the various alternatives for retaining what he called the "efficiency" of searching a vast phone data trove, either held by phone companies or a new private entity.