NSA Spy Program One Step Closer to Extinction

Image: NSA Spy Program One Step Closer to Extinction

Thursday, 08 May 2014 06:55 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The House of Representatives is moving ahead to curtail how the National Security Agency collects and retains telephone data on Americans, the National Journal reported.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 32-0 Wednesday to amend the USA Freedom Act, the National Journal said. The House Intelligence Committee will vote on its version of the legislation Thursday. The intelligence committee version doesn't include a blanket prohibition on bulk collection.

House members will need to reconcile conflicts between the two versions. The final bill is expected to be in line with President Barack Obama's announced NSA reforms. A vote by the full House could take place by the end of May, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Amending the USA Freedom Act is aimed at minimizing how much private information the government retains and to proscribe how such data can be obtained, the Journal reported.

Wisconsin Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner drafted the judiciary panel's bill. It would have telephone numbers and call durations stored by phone companies, not the government. Authorities could collect data for counterterrorism purposes only.

Surveillance would be restricted to those with two rather than three degrees of separation from the principle target.

In most instances, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court would have to approve the search of a phone number.

The reforms stem out of privacy concerns raised by the revelations made by Edward Snowden last June that exposed the previously classified scope of NSA snooping.

Rep. John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said the amended USA Freedom Act "is a less-than-perfect compromise, [but] it makes important substantive changes that will work to restore confidence in the intelligence community," the National Journal reported.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte labored to maintain bipartisan support throughout the process. He said Congress needed to ensure that the law protects national security while preserving civil liberties, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, will take up the Freedom Act during the summer.

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