U.S. House Poised To Pass Curbs on NSA Surveillance

The House on Thursday passed legislation to end the National Security Agency's bulk collection of American phone records, the first legislative response to the disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Although the compromise measure was significantly "watered down," in the words of Democrat Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, it passed by a vote of 303 to 120, with 9 members not voting.

"We must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good," Schakowsky, an intelligence committee member, said in summing up the feelings of many Republicans and Democrats who voted for the measure but wanted tougher provisions. Dropped from the bill was a requirement for an independent public advocate on the secret intelligence court that oversees the NSA.

The USA Freedom Act would codify a proposal made in January by President Barack Obama, who said he wanted to end the NSA's practice of collecting the "to and from" records of nearly every American landline telephone call under a program that searched the data for connections to terrorist plots abroad.

The bill instructs the phone companies to hold the records for 18 months -- which they already were doing -- and lets the NSA search them in terrorism investigations in response to a judicial order. The phone program was revealed last year by Snowden, who used his job as a computer network administrator to remove tens of thousands of secret documents from an NSA facility in Hawaii.

The measure now heads to the Senate. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the intelligence committee, has said she is willing to go along with a similar idea.

NSA officials were pleased with the bill because under the existing program, they did not have access to many mobile phone records. Under the new arrangement, they will, officials say.

"I believe this is a workable compromise that protects the...

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