The House voted overwhelmingly Thursday to end the bulk collection of American phone records by the National Security Agency. The legislation, known as the USA Freedom Act, passed 303-121:
WHAT’S IN THE BILL
– Ends the National Security Agency’s program of collecting and storing records of domestic phone calls.
– Allows the NSA to request batches of records from phone companies in terrorism investigations pursuant to a court order.
– Requires the inspector general of the Justice Department to review the use of domestic phone and other business records from 2012 to 2014 and requires the inspector general of the intelligence community to assess the value and use of intelligence obtained through those records over the same period.
AND WHAT’S LEFT OUT
– Originally, the bill required the government to base its data request on “a term used to uniquely describe a person, entity, or account.” That was changed to “a discrete term, such as a term specifically identifying a person, entity, account, address, or device,” which experts say will allow broader searches.
– The bill once required annual reports estimating the number of Americans, rounded to the hundred, who were subject to national security surveillance or data requests. That was dropped.
– The bill initially required an independent public advocate who could challenge the government’s legal positions before the secret surveillance court. That was cut. The courts hold closed hearings in which only the government makes its case for a search warrant. No other attorney represents either the target of the search warrant or the privacy interests of the public in general.
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