NSA Ends American Telephone Metadata Collection

Original author: Ellen Nakashima, Andrea Peterson
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The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a bill that will end the collection of NSA telephone metadata of Americans

Bob Goodlat, chair of the US House of Representatives, speaks at a press conference on the US Freedom Act on Thursday [May 22 - approx. transl.].

On Thursday [ May 22 - approx. trans.] The House of Representatives of the US Congress, with a significant margin of vote, approved a bill that would put an end to a massive wiretap by the National Security Agency (NSA) of American citizens. The audition was part of a counterterrorism program that aroused concern for Americans about their privacy after their existence was revealed last year.

The USA Freedom Act, which at the very beginning looked like an impressive package of surveillance reforms proposed by civil rights activists and the Republican libertarian party, was revised this week to meet the interests of intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

The amended bill lost the support of dozens of co-sponsors who were unhappy with the mitigation of reforms. But he gathered the votes of members of the intelligence committee and those who were against the original version, and was adopted, gaining 303 votes against 121.

“Let me clarify, I would like this law to do more,” says James Sensenbrenner, a member of the Republican Party, the main sponsor of the bill. “To colleagues who are dissatisfied with the amendments, I want to say that they are right and I agree with them ... But this law still deserves support.”

The attention of supporters of the reform is now focused on the Senate, where in June the legal committee will discuss the bill.

The vote by the House of Representatives seems to reflect the feeling of the administration and many members of Congress that now, almost a year after the program was revealed due to the disclosure of secret information by former NSA officer Edward Snowden, it's time to settle the differences and move on.

In January, President Obama demanded an end to the NSA’s massive collection of telephone data. The program does not intend to monitor the content of calls. A major breakthrough came earlier this month when leaders of the US House of Representatives Law and Intelligence Committee reached an agreement on the bill and found a compromise that satisfied privacy advocates.

But in recent days, under strong pressure from high-ranking intelligence officers, committee leaders agreed with the changes. On Wednesday, the White House approved the bill, saying that it "guarantees intelligence and law enforcement officials sufficient powers to protect the nation and at the same time provide adequate protection for the privacy of citizens."

The revised system of measures will deprive the government of the opportunity to receive billions of detailed data on American calls from telephone companies, this can only be done by an individual court order. But privacy advocates say the law continues to collect a huge amount of data, which, for example, comes from a single zip code.

“If we leave at least some ambiguity in the law, we will see that the intelligence community is able to smuggle almost a truck through this loophole,” said Zoe Lofgren, representative of the Democratic Party.

Chairman of the Legal Committee Bob Goodlatte said: "This is a carefully drafted bipartisan bill," and this "once again proves that American freedom and security are not mutually exclusive concepts."

The law is “better than nothing and better than the alternative bill proposed by the intelligence committee,” said Kevin Bankston, political director of the New America Open Institute of Technology. “But we still have a lot to do in the Senate, we need to recall the changes that have softened the law.”

Senate Chairman of the Legal Committee Patrick Leahy said he was disappointed that the new law had lost some of its “important reforms that the original version of the bill contained,” and said he would help restore them.

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