USA Freedom Act Gets Key House Committee Approval

This week a key House committee approved a package of NSA reforms that would end the spy agency's practice of collecting Americans' phone records. It took lawmakers nearly a year after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed the program's existence to do something about it.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 32-0 on Wednesday to rein in the NSA with the USA FREEDOM Act. The bill would place new requirements on the government when it comes to gathering, targeting and searching telephone metadata for intelligence purposes.

The bill would also require the government to get permission from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on a case-by-case basis. It would establish a panel of privacy experts and other officials to serve as a public advocate at the court. And it would also give businesses more latitude to tell the public about requests it receives from the government for user data.

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said that this bit of legislation is the "best chance in a decade" to correct the current imbalance between national security and privacy. It is the first surveillance reform bill to proceed to the House floor.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who helped write the bill and introduced a version of it in the Senate in October, vowed to bring up the measure there this summer as well.

"The committee’s overwhelming, bipartisan vote makes clear that there is broad support in Congress, after years of debate, to recalibrate the nation’s surveillance authorities and put a real oversight structure in place," Leahy said.

Civil liberties advocates are calling the measure a modest first step.

"The committee’s actions are a step towards bringing the government’s surveillance regime in line with the Constitution, even as more reforms are needed," said the American Civil Liberties Union's Laura Murphy. "Today’s milestone vote is a direct result of the important disclosures made by Edward Snowden."

Source: Washington Post

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