House Passes Law to Curb Mass Data Collection

By ABC News

May 22, 2014 4:49pm

ABC News’ Daniel Litke reports: 

Patriot Act, meet the USA Freedom Act.

The House of Representatives approved a bill today to curb the federal government’s mass collection of metadata, a practice revealed by National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

The USA Freedom Act codifies into law a proposal from President Obama earlier this year and was approved by a vote of 303 to 121. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Revelations about the NSA’s mass collection of metadata caused a public backlash and has made Snowden, who fled to Russia, the Obama administration’s public enemy No. 1.

Proponents of the legislation, H.R. 3361, say that in addition to ending bulk collection of metadata, it improves transparency and oversight of intelligence gathering programs operated under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

House Speaker John Boehner expressed satisfaction with today’s vote, saying people are now “a lot more comfortable that the government is not storing all of this metadata that we were [collecting].”

“We also in this bill make it clear that there is no access to this data without a court decision, and the standards for that decision are higher than what they were,” said Boehner, R-Ohio.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte also praised the bill as a compromise between national security and civil liberties.

“The USA Freedom Act accomplishes both of these goals, protecting our cherished individual liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights and preserving our nation’s fundamental duty to keep its citizens safe from foreign enemies,” Goodlatte, R-Va., said during a news conference following the bill’s passage.

However, the bill has faced some scrutiny from civil liberties activists and technology companies who argue that House reforms have weakened its impact.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., shared these concerns, arguing that, “if you take a look at the selection changes made in the bill it would allow for bulk collection should the NSA do so.”

“We have learned that if we leave any ambiguity in the law, the intelligence agencies run a truck right through that ambiguity,” she said.

But Boehner underscored his belief that the reforms are adequate for now.

“I do believe this will address the issues that need to be addressed at the NSA for this year,” he said, adding that technology companies’ “views were clearly represented in the discussion that came to this agreement.”

The bill’s prospects in the Senate are unclear.

ABC News’ John Parkinson contributed to this report.

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