Congress Tries To Curtail NSA Spying, Sort Of

Aliya Sternstein | Nextgov | January 16, 2014

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.