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U.S. House narrowly defeats amendment to restrict NSA snooping

U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday narrowly defeated an amendment of the Defense Authorization Act that would restrict surveillance of the American public by the National Security Agency (NSA).

In a 205-217 vote, the House rejected the amendment proposed by Rep. Justin Amash, a libertarian Republican from Michigan. A majority of Democrats, 111 of them, voted for the amendment despite opposition of the White House, while 83 voted against. The Republicans voted 94-134. The GOP leadership also opposes the amendment.

The amendment, if passed, would bar "authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act." It will also bar "the NSA 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 would defund the National Security Agency's bulk collection of people's phone metadata not under investigation for international terrorism or foreign intelligence.

After the House ruled the amendment in order on Monday, the administration and lawmakers who supported the surveillance program, which enables NSA to cull broad swaths of communications data, launched a coordinated campaign to derail it. NSA Director Keith Alexander met House members Tuesday to lobby against the amendment.

The White House and major senators also put out statements advising against the amendment, which meant even if it passed House, it would have little chance making into the final defense authorization act.

The House mover came after former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden exposed wide-ranging spying activities of the U.S. government, raising serious question about Washington's blatant violations of civil liberties.

China, some European nations and many Latin American countries, all targets of the extensive U.S. spying scheme, have urged Washington to come clean of its record and explain its intentions.

[Source: Xinhua, Washington, 24Jul13]

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Privacy and counterintelligence
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