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May 22, 2014

On the face of it - this looks good - encouraging


This bill has to pass the Senate and then Hussein Obama. Should it pass those two hurdles, who would trust the NSA to stop their games anyway? There is no mention of cutting back funding. Skeptical be my middle name.

House votes to shut down NSA phone-snooping

In an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote that would have been unthinkable just a few months ago, the House on Thursday approved a bill to cancel the government's bulk-data collection programs, including the NSA's phone-records snooping.

Less than a year after the program was first revealed by former government contractor Edward Snowden, the 303-121 vote to halt bulk data collection shows just how quickly a consensus developed against the NSA's secret program.

"This is the end of secret laws," said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., the author of the original Patriot Act, who said he felt betrayed by the way the government used that law. "We have turned the tables on the NSA, and say we are watching you -- and we will."

But the bill is far less than civil liberties groups had wanted, and does still allow the National Security Agency to collect data under court order in certain conditions involving foreign agents -- conditions that some lawmakers said they are afraid the NSA will distort to ramp up its bulk collection to again grab information on Americans.

Thursday's vote is a first, major step for Congress. The Senate will have to approve the bill as well, and it would then go to President Obama. But even Mr. Obama, who for most of his administration approved and oversaw bulk collection, has changed his stance.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the White House said it "strongly supports" the bill curbing Mr. Obama's powers.

"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 Office of Management and Budget said.

The White House did manage to get the bill watered down -- so much so that a number of civil liberties groups have withdrawn their support in recent days.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who supported an earlier version but voted against Thursday's bill on the floor, said key privacy and disclosure protections were removed. She said given the intelligence community's history, she was not prepared to trust them.

"Our job is not to trust, but to codify," she said.

The NSA program revealed by Mr. Snowden allowed the government to demand metadata records from phone companies, which included the numbers, times and durations of every call made in the U.S. The government stored the records for five years, and queried the database when agents suspected a number was related to terrorism.

Members of the intelligence community said the program had never been abused and argued it was a valuable tool -- though they were unable to convince a number of external reviews that found the data had not helped stop any terrorist attacks.

Under the new bill, data would be held by the phone companies, and the government would be required to get a court order when it wanted to seek specific data.

Posted by LadyR at May 22, 2014 7:22 PM

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