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U.S. House to vote to restrict NSA snooping

U.S. House of Representatives will vote on an amendment of the Defense Authorization Act to restrict surveillance of the American public, a House committee announced Tuesday.

The House Rules Committee on Tuesday posted a revised amendment 's summary on its website, saying the amendment "bars authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act."

It will also bar "the NSA (National Security Agency) and other agencies from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect records, including telephone call records, that pertain to persons who are not subject to an investigation under Section 215."

In short, the amendment will cut off funds for the NSA's bulk collection of people's phone metadata not under investigation for international terrorism or foreign intelligence.

The amendment was first proposed by Rep. Justin Amash, a libertarian Republican from Michigan, and co-sponsored by former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and liberal Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers. The House ruled the amendment in order on Monday, and it is expected to get a vote as early as Wednesday.

The move comes six weeks after NSA contractor Edward Snowden divulged details of huge programs that collect telephone and Internet data on millions of Americans and foreigners.

The amendment met with fierce opposition from the intelligence community.

NSA Director Keith Alexander headed to Capitol Hill Tuesday afternoon for a "members-only briefing set up by the House Intelligence Committee" to lobby against the amendment.

High ranking members of the Senate were also against the measure.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss said in a joint statement Tuesday that the program has "contributed to disrupting numerous terrorist attacks against our nation," and it has been "reviewed and authorized by all three branches of government and is subject to strict controls," and "any amendments to defund the program on appropriations bills would be unwise."

However, other members of the intelligence committee supported the House amendment.

Sen. Ron Wyden, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee with access to classified details about the program, said Tuesday that there is no evidence that the data collection had been directly responsible for stopping any single plot.

[Source: Xinhua, Washington, 23Jul13]

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Privacy and counterintelligence
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