Senate intelligence panel sharply split on surveillance reforms

One of the reforms—a three-year cap on the retention of telephone records in the main database—went down, 7-8, even though it had the support of Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) The amendment failed in a party line vote where Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, joined the GOP to kill the amendment.

The court orders regulating the call-tracking program currently allow the NSA to collect up to five years-worth of call data. Language in the bill the panel approved adopts that five-year limit as a matter of law, but would allow searches of the two oldest years of data only with the approval of the attorney general.

Another 7-8 casualty in the intel panel mark-up was a provision to ban the bulk collection of cell-site information that can show where a caller is physically located at the time of making or receiving a call. The NSA has acknowledged running experiments to handle such data, but says it isn’t collecting it now. Most panel Democrats supported the geolocation data ban, and most Republicans opposed it, but some crossed the lines. Feinstein and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), whose state is home to the NSA, voted against the ban. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) voted for it.