#AceSecurityNews – UNITED STATES – WASHINGTON – NSA – May 08 – A US House of Representatives committee approved legislation on Wednesday that would limit the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of domestic telephone metadata. By a vote of 32 to 0, the House Judiciary Committee advanced the USA Freedom Act, which would end the NSA’s wholesale gathering and storage of American phone data, leaving telecommunications companies responsible for retaining the records.
The bill would still allow the NSA to collect a person’s phone records, and those of people two “hops” or contacts away, if a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, which has been very generous to NSA spying requests in recent years, signs off on the request based on reasonable suspicion of so-called terrorism involvement.
A reform bill deemed as the toughest clampdown yet on the NSA’s collection of phone metadata is expected to move through a key US House committee this week, setting up a showdown between the bill and less stringent legislation supported by House leaders.
House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) will reportedly act on the USA Freedom Act on Wednesday after the bill sat dormant since its introduction in October by former judiciary committee chair and US Patriot Act author Jim Sensenbrenner (R-OH).
The bill is the favored legislative vehicle for privacy advocates that want to see reform of the NSA’s bulk collection of domestic phone call data. Congressional aides believe the bill will pass through the committee with bipartisan support, the Guardian reported. Privacy advocates believe the bill has real potential to pass in a general House vote should it get the chance.
The House Judiciary Committee’s USA Freedom Act was left for dead by House Republican leadership after a competing NSA reform bill was offered in March by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers. The intel committee’s proposal would allow the NSA to continue gathering domestic call data without a prior judicial order.
Hours after the Judiciary Committee announced it would markup its NSA bill on Wednesday, the Intelligence Committee said it would do the same with its own reform bill, the FISA Transparency and Modernization Act, on Thursday. FISA, or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, dictates US surveillance of “foreign intelligence information” that can include American citizens or permanent residents suspected of terrorism.
Goodlatte’s support for the USA Freedom Act was reportedly in doubt before House Republican leaders decided to bypass his committee effort to reform the NSA in favor of the Intelligence Committee’s more lukewarm legislation.
The Intelligence Committee’s Rogers has criticized the USA Freedom Act for going too far in curbing bulk collection capabilities that, he says, are vital for national security reasons.
Sensenbrenner’s USA Freedom Act was initially more strict in limiting NSA collection abilities, positing that it would “end bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, in light of the massive intrusion on Americans’ privacy and the lack of evidence of its effectiveness.”
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