House passes curbs on NSA surveillance



The House voted 303-121 to curb the government’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone call records.

John Carter (R), Yes

Lloyd Doggett (D), No

Blake Farenthold (R), Yes

Bill Flores (R), Yes

Michael McCaul (R), Yes

Lamar Smith (R), Yes

Roger Williams (R), Yes



The House voted 303-121 to curb the government’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone call records.

John Barrow (D), Yes

Sanford Bishop (D), Yes

Paul Broun (R), No

Doug Collins (R), Yes

Phil Gingrey (R), Yes

Tom Graves (R), No

Hank Johnson (D), Yes

Jack Kingston (R), No

John Lewis (D), No

Tom Price (R), Yes

Austin Scott (R), Yes

David Scott (D), Yes

Lynn Westmoreland (R), Yes

Rob Woodall (R), Yes



The House voted 303-121 to curb the government’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone call records.

John Boehner (R), NV

Steve Chabot (R), Yes

Jim Jordan (R), No

Michael Turner (R), Yes

Brad Wenstrup (R), Yes



The House voted 303-121 to curb the government’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone call records.

Ted Deutch (D), Yes

Lois Frankel (D), Yes

Alcee Hastings (D), No

Patrick Murphy (D), Yes

The House passed legislation Thursday to curb the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, despite charges from some privacy advocates that the measure had been diluted to the point that they could no longer support it.

The USA Freedom Act now heads to the Senate, where top Democrats have vowed to reinstate privacy protections that they say the House bill lacks.

The 303-121 House vote was the first legislative response to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s disclosures about government surveillance. Lawmakers from both parties wanted to send a strong signal that they are no longer comfortable with giving the NSA unfettered power to collect bulk surveillance data.

But the final version of the legislation, “watered down” in the words of one supporter, also showed the limits of how far lawmakers were willing to go.

The bill was heavily revised at the insistence of U.S. intelligence agencies, which said the wide-ranging surveillance programs exposed by Snowden are a critical bulwark against terror plots.

Still, with Thursday’s vote, most House members can now say they voted to end what many critics consider the most troubling practice Snowden disclosed: the collection and storage of U.S. calling data by the secretive NSA.

“I believe this is a workable compromise that protects the core function of a counterterrorism program we know has saved lives around the world,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich.. chairman of the Intelligence Committee.

But almost no other major provision designed to restrict NSA surveillance — including limits on the secret court that grants warrants to search the data — survived the negotiations to get the bill to the House floor.

And even the prohibition on bulk collection of Americans’ communications records has been called into question by some activists who say a last-minute change in wording diminished what was sold as a ban.

“People will say, ‘We did something, and isn’t something enough?’ ” said Steven Aftergood, who tracks intelligence issues for the Federation of American Scientists. “But this bill doesn’t fundamentally resolve the uncertainties that generated the whole controversy.”

Some activists continued to back the bill, including the ACLU, whose Washington legislative director, Laura Murphy, called it an imperfect but “unambiguous statement of congressional intent to rein in the out-of-control NSA.”

Other privacy groups withdrew their support, as did technology companies such as Google and Facebook. They said they were most concerned with a last-minute definition change that they fear will allow the government to collect huge volumes of records — including, for example, records of all the phone calls made from a particular U.S. city during a certain period, or all the Internet data associated with a particular commercial router.

The bill’s original text limited the government’s data requests to those associated with specific people, entities or accounts. The approved version says the government may use any “specific selection term” to set the parameters of its search, including a type of device or an address. The new language appears to allow much broader data requests.

“The new version deliberately contains ambiguity in a very critical area,” said Harley Geiger, senior counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology. “We’ve learned about the government track record of exploiting ambiguity in the law to broaden its surveillance activity.”

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Rep. Adam Schiff, an Intelligence Committee Democrat from California, said the vagueness was designed to protect the government’s surveillance methods, not to facilitate secret bulk collection.

Other provisions that were dropped from the bill included requirements to estimate the number of Americans whose records were captured under the program, and the creation of a public advocate to challenge the government’s legal arguments before the secret surveillance court.

NSA officials were pleased with the bill for another reason: The new arrangement will give them access to mobile calling records they did not have under the old program, officials say.