'Patriot Act' Author Seeks 'USA Freedom Act' to Rein In NSA

Jim Sensenbrenner bracing for showdown in House, Senate on bipartisan NSA bill.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., testifies at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Voting Rights Act on Capitol Hill on July 17, 2013, in Washington.
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Patriot Act author Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said on Wednesday that "in the next few days," he will submit a bipartisan bill to end the bulk collection of data and phone records by the National Security Agency.

The move will likely face opposition from members of both parties.

Sensenbrenner said during an event in Washington, D.C., that he is preparing to a submit a bill called "The USA Freedom Act" with help from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, D-Mich., "along with other members who are passionate about civil liberties."

[READ: NSA Director Welcomes Surveillance Transparency, Oversight]

"This comprehensive legislation will end the bulk collection of Americans' communications records by adopting a uniform standard for intelligence gathering under Section 215 of the Patriot Act," Sensenbrenner said. "It ends the NSA's ability to collect what they call 'a metadata program.'"

Sensenbrenner was the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee when the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, occurred, and was one of the original authors of the Patriot Act.

The bill would also amend Title 4 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and section 702 of FISA to restrict surveillance to authorized international terrorism investigations and strengthen protections to keep Americans from being targeted.

To reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the bill would also create a privacy advocate to argue civil liberties concerns and appeal court decisions. The bill would also require the government to disclose FISC decisions that contain a significant construction or interpretation of the law.

[READ: 'Freedom Act' in House, Senate Would Amend 'Patriot Act']

"While the targets of terrorist investigations need to remain classified, changes in the law need to be open to public debate," Sensenbrenner said.

It would also increase the ability of Internet and telecom companies to disclose information about government requests. Companies including Facebook and Yahoo sued the government in September for the right to publicly disclose the amount of user data requests those companies receive from the government.

[READ: Yahoo, Facebook CEOs Criticize NSA]

"We must strike the proper balance between national security and privacy," Sensenbrenner said.

The Freedom Act will face opposition from both parties in both the House and Senate who see the bulk collection of data as a necessary tool to combat terrorism.

The House defeated a proposed amendment to the defense appropriations bill by seven votes in July that would have restricted the NSA's collection of phone records and metadata, which portends a heated battle for the Freedom Act.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., is working on his own legislative package to reform the NSA, and he was one of the votes against that amendment in July that would have ended the super-secret agency's bulk collection of data.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has proposed a bill that adds oversight and transparency measures to NSA's programs, but would still preserve the surveillance program.

Sensenbrenner said he has not spoken with Rogers about the Freedom Act but "there are other members who have expressed sympathy" for the approach to end the NSA's bulk data collection.

[READ: House Intelligence Chairman Considering NSA Reform Legislation]

The approaches taken by Feinstein and Rogers to preserve the data collection is a way to provide "a fig leaf for the intelligence community," to continue its controversial surveillance, Sensenbrenner said.

"It would be far too small of a fig leaf," Sensenbrenner said. "We are going to have to beat them on the floor, and we are going to do it."

The Obama administration has taken steps to increase transparency on the NSA surveillance programs by making classified documents public, but President Barack Obama has defended the need for the surveillance programs to combat terrorism. Sensenbrenner said he was not certain he would have the votes to override a veto of the bill by the president if it passed both houses, but added if Obama did veto the bill then the collection of metadata would "fall directly on the president's shoulders."