Lawmakers want to rein in the National Security Agency, but their bill could actually give the agency access to more Americans' records.
Rick Ledgett, the NSA's deputy director, acknowledged during a Senate hearing Thursday that the USA Freedom Act could "potentially" help the NSA gain access to records on millions of cell phone calls that are currently out of the agency's reach.
"Under the guise of further protecting privacy "¦ the universe [of call records] will be exponentially larger than what the prior system was," Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, warned during the hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
People increasingly rely on cell phones instead of landline phones. But due to technical obstacles, the NSA struggles to collect records for most cell-phone calls, according to reports earlier this year from The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
Although the goal of the NSA's controversial bulk record-collection program is to sweep in every U.S. phone call, the agency actually collects data on less than 30 percent of calls, according to the reports.
Last month, the House passed the USA Freedom Act, which would force the NSA to give up its massive database of phone records, which contains phone numbers and timestamps of millions of landline calls. Under the bill, the NSA would have to receive court approval for each search of a phone company's records.