AndySimmons (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Twin bills that would revise the Patriot Act and curb the state surveillance exposed by Edward Snowden look certain to become law as bipartisan support mounts in both chambers of Congress.

The New York Times reports:

On Thursday, a bill that would overhaul the Patriot Act and curtail the so-called metadata surveillance exposed by Edward J. Snowden was overwhelmingly passed by the House Judiciary Committee and was heading to almost certain passage in that chamber this month.

An identical bill in the Senate — introduced with the support of five Republicans — is gaining support over the objection of Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, who is facing the prospect of his first policy defeat since ascending this year to majority leader. …

Under the bipartisan bills in the House and Senate, the Patriot Act would be changed to prohibit bulk collection, and sweeps that had operated under the guise of so-called National Security Letters issued by the F.B.I. would end. The data would instead be stored by the phone companies themselves, and could be accessed by intelligence agencies only after approval of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court.

The legislation would also create a panel of experts to advise the FISA court on privacy, civil liberties, and technology matters, while requiring the declassification of all significant FISA court opinions.

The Times called the push for reform “the strongest demonstration yet of a decade-long shift from a singular focus on national security at the expense of civil liberties to a new balance in the post-Snowden era.”

The debate pits an odd alliance consisting of House Speaker John A. Boehner, the White House, the Tea Party and a bipartisan majority in the House against McConnell, his intelligence committee chief and a small number of defense hawks. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky — both Republican presidential candidates — have made it clear they would not accept an unmodified extension of the Patriot Act.

The act expires on June 1 and is up for its first reauthorization since Snowden’s revelations about bulk data collection. Pressure from technology companies and support from the White House make changes to the law more likely, The Times reported.

Read more here.

Earlier this week as the efforts describe above were mounting, Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer, National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney and Truthdig columnist Bill Blum discussed “the NSA’s ability to ignore the provisions, stockpile information and switch off our cellphones at will” in a filmed discussion posted on Truthdig.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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