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US House Passes NSA Spying Bill

US House Passes NSA Spying Bill
US House Passes NSA Spying Bill

The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill to renew the National Security Agency’s warrantless Internet surveillance program.

The legislation, which passed 256-164 and split on party lines, is the culmination of a years-long debate in congress on the proper scope of US intelligence collection — one fueled by the 2013 disclosures of classified surveillance secrets by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, CNBC reported.

Senior Democrats in the house representatives had urged cancellation of the vote after Trump appeared to cast doubt on the merits of the program, but Republicans forged ahead.

Trump initially said on Twitter that the surveillance program, first created in secret after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and later legally authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, had been used against him but later said it was needed.

Some conservative, libertarian-leaning Republicans and liberal Democrats attempted to persuade colleagues to include more privacy protections. They failed on Thursday to pass an amendment to include a warrant requirement before the NSA or other intelligence agencies could scrutinize communications belonging to Americans whose data is ‘incidentally’ collected.

Thursday’s vote was a major blow to privacy and civil liberties advocates, who just two years ago celebrated passage of a law effectively ending the NSA’s bulk collection of US call records, another top-secret program exposed by Snowden.

The bill as passed by the house would extend the NSA’s spying program for six years with minimal changes. Some privacy groups said it would actually expand the NSA’s surveillance powers. Most lawmakers expect it to become law, although it still would require senate approval and Trump’s signature.

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