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House passes NSA bill to block bulk data collection

With the strong support of the White House, the bill now heads to the Senate over the objections of civil liberties advocates.
By Gabrielle Levy   |   May 22, 2014 at 11:32 AM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, May 22 (UPI) -- The House of Representatives Thursday easily passed its bill that will halt the NSA's bulk collection of American's telephone metadata, over objections from civil liberties groups concerned the protections didn't go far enough.

Members voted 303-121 to pass the USA Freedom Act, sending it to the Senate with the strong support of the White House behind it.

"Those who during the first round of negotiations thought our national security was in peril [with this bill], and those during that first round of negotiations thought our civil liberties were in peril, found that right balance," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

Rogers, who authored a competing bill, threw his support behind the USA Freedom Act, out of the House Judiciary Committee, after an amendment weakened some of its protections.

"The bill ensures our intelligence and law enforcement professionals have the authorities they need to protect the Nation, while further ensuring that individuals' privacy is appropriately protected when these authorities are employed," the White House said in a statement Wednesday in advance of the bill's passage.

Civil liberties groups remain against the new bill, saying the weakened language effectively adds a loophole that allows the NSA to continue to do bulk searches of American's phone data, even if the agency can't hold the data itself anymore.

"The House has failed to deliver serious surveillance reform," said Zeke Johnson, director of Amnesty International USA's Security and Human Rights Program, in a statement Thursday. "People inside and outside the U.S. would remain at risk of dragnet surveillance. The Senate should pass much stronger reforms ensuring greater transparency, robust judicial review, equal rights for non-U.S. persons, and a clear, unambiguous ban on mass spying."

Follow @gabbilevy and @UPI on Twitter.
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