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Democratic senators push to raise threshold for snooping

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Two Democratic senators who have been critical of the U.S. government’s recently disclosed surveillance programs will file legislation that would limit the government’s ability to collect data on Americans if it can not show a demonstrated link to terrorism or espionage.

Sens. Mark Udall of Colorado and Ron Wyden of Oregon signaled their intent on Friday in the wake of concerns over a “secret interpretation” of aspects of the 2002 Patriot Act. Former President George W. Bush pushed the legislation to passage in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and it has been renewed by Congress based on the belief it has helped the government prevent additional attacks.

Mr. Udall said that while the programs “provide valuable information that helps protect our national security, Americans with no link to terrorism or espionage should not have to worry that their private information is being swept up.”

Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old analyst with access to top-secret information, shocked Washington this month by disclosing that the National Security Agency keeps phone call logs and collects Internet data from foreigners through a hyper-secret program known as Prism.

Earlier this week, Mr. Wyden said he is not happy with National Intelligence Director James Clapper’s assertion in a March congressional hearing that the government does not “wittingly” collect data on Americans’ phone calls.

Mr. Udall and Mr. Wyden serve on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and have questioned whether agents could have procured vital information with less intrusive surveillance programs.

“This legislation will give the government broad authorities to investigate terrorism but will also protect law-abiding Americans from the type of invasive surveillance activities that Sen. Udall and I have been warning about for years,” Mr. Wyden said.

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