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Senate NSA bill would expand requirements of phone companies

Senate NSA bill would expand requirements of phone companies
A new Senate bill would require phone companies to notify the government if a change is made in how customer records are stored. This comes as the NSA’s bulk data collection expires but calls to increase surveillance intensify following recent attacks.

On Thursday, Angus King (I-Maine) and Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) introduced the Private Sector Call Record Retention Act. This followed the expiration of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) controversial bulk collection of millions of Americans' phone records.

The NSA domestic surveillance collection program collecting the metadata of phone calls ended Sunday. The agency will now need to a court order to request certain records about specific terror suspects, in contrast to its previous policy of indiscriminate collection of records of people who are suspected of illegal activity.

Critics of this dialing back of surveillance worry that there aren’t measures in place for to force phone companies to keep records that might later be requested by the NSA.

To prevent this, the new bill would require service providers to give the Department of Justice 180 days’ notice if they intend to retain “call detail records for a period less than 18 months.”

“Our legislation would simply require that US officials are provided with adequate warning if a company decides it no longer will hold these vital records, allowing time to ensure that we don’t lose a potentially valuable tool in the battle against terrorism,” Sen. King said in a statement.

Civil liberties advocates maintain that federal intelligence officials have said that they don’t need mandates like the one in the legislation.

National security hawks have been pushing for more surveillance in the wake of November’s terror attacks in Paris and this week’s shooting in San Bernardino, California.

READ MORE: ‘Surreal’: First responder to San Bernardino massacre describes ‘unspeakable carnage’

On Wednesday, Sen. Cotton introduced another bill that would empower the NSA by making permanent a set of abilities that are set to expire in two years. He claims that those powers are necessary to battle Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL).

Under the Liberty Through Strength Act II, the NSA would keep metadata records collected under the old system for five years, instead of them meeting their current fate of deletion.

On Sunday our constitutional, legal, and proven NSA collection architecture shifted to an untested, less effective system in the dead of the night,” Cotton said in a statement Wednesday. “Worse, President Obama has decided that he will press delete on the metadata records we currently have, making it impossible to identify terrorist connections among these data that would reveal ISIS and Al-Qaeda sleeper cells."