To Overhaul NSA Data Collection Clears Hurdle In U.S. Congress
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[May 08, 2014]
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. House
of Representatives committee voted unanimously on Wednesday to advance a
bill that would end the National Security Agency's bulk collection of
Americans' telephone records, one of the most controversial spy programs
revealed a year ago by former contractor Edward Snowden.
The House Judiciary committee voted 32-0 to back the measure,
which would end the NSA's gathering information about telephone
calls and storing them for at least five years. It would instead
leave the records with telephone companies.
The bill would allow the NSA to collect a person's phone records,
and those of two contacts, if investigators can convince a judge
they have a reasonable suspicion the person was involved in
The legislation still faces several hurdles before becoming law,
including winning the approval of a majority in the full House, as
well as backing in the U.S. Senate. It is similar to NSA reforms
proposed by President Barack Obama.
"We applaud the House Judiciary Committee for approaching this issue
on a bipartisan basis," White House National Security Council
spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.
"The Judiciary Committee-passed bill is a very good first step in
that important effort, and we look forward to House Permanent Select
Committee on Intelligence action on it tomorrow," the statement
Privacy groups said they were delighted with the support for the
bill. "This is a historic turn of events in our government's
approach to counterterrorism policies," Laura Murphy, director of
the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington Legislation Office,
said in a statement.
The House Intelligence Committee will debate and vote on its
somewhat less restrictive version of the package on Thursday, which
could set up a standoff on the House floor.
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Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate
Judiciary Committee, applauded the House committee's action,
although he said he wished it had gone further, such as including a
strong special advocate in the secret court that oversees NSA
Signaling that the fight over the surveillance programs was not
over, Leahy said in a statement he would push for those reforms when
his committee considers the legislation, known as the USA Freedom
Act, this summer.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Ken
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