recommended reading

Congress Tries to Curtail NSA Spying, Sort Of


Buried in a soon-to-pass government spending bill is a ban on the monitoring of any specific U.S. citizen's phone calls and online activities. The small, vague passage, however, leaves wiggle room for the National Security Agency to continue sweeping up Americans' call and Internet data en masse.

The fiscal 2014 funding legislation seems to underscore that the targeting of U.S. citizens is illegal. It does not endorse or object to the controversial "Prism" Web-tracking program or collections of call "metadata" detailing conversation durations, timestamps and other phone log details.

The issue of eavesdropping on a U.S. individual’s communications is personal for Senators and House members. As USA Today reported this week, NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander, in a letter to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., denied spying on members of Congress but said the agency makes no promises that individual lawmakers have not had their call logs scooped up in broad dragnets.  

According to the legislative text, the government cannot use any 2014 money to monitor online communications under the Internet surveillance program "for the purpose of targeting a United States person," and no funding can go toward looking at "the contents" of any calls of "a United States person" through the metadata program

The House approved the measure late Wednesday and the Senate is expected to follow later this week.

President Obama on Friday morning is scheduled to address reforming NSA’s digital intercept efforts, following global debate over their value and privacy protections. 

A White House-appointed review panel last month recommended NSA farm out collection activities to telecommunications carriers or a private entity. 

House and Senate Appropriations Committee staff declined to comment for this story.

As a policy, NSA does not comment on congressional proposals until they are enacted, an agency spokeswoman said. 

(Image via robodread/

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.