The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would reform the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. Although documents leaked by former NSA employee Edward Snowden sparked a global debate regarding the role of government in the surveillance of individuals last July, this marks the first official attempt to scale back the surveillance efforts of the federal government.
The bill, referred to as the USA Freedom Act, passed 303 to 121 in the House with endorsement from the Obama administration. According to RT, the White House’s official statement claimed that the bill’s “significant reforms would provide the public greater confidence in our programs and the checks and balances in the system.”
The bill, which passed with bipartisan support, woul stop the government from collecting telephone metadata on a mass scale.
In an attempt to pass the bill, however, several provisions regarding transparency of government requests to companies for data (FISA Court reforms) were removed. There is still a chance for these elements of the bill’s initial draft to be reintroduced by the Senate, although whether the bill will even gain support during its next step in the lawmaking process is uncertain.
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According to CBS News, the version passed by the house is “watered down,” although it would still achieve the goal of ending bulk data collection.
“Perfect is rarely possible in politics, and this bill is no exception,” says bill sponsor Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), “Let me be clear, I wish this bill did more. To my colleagues who lament changes, I agree with you. To privacy groups who are upset about lost provisions, I share your disappointment... But this bill still deserves support. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”