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US House votes to end NSA bulk collection of phone data

The US House of Representatives has voted to end the NSA’s bulk collection of American’s telephone data on Wednesday.

The House overwhelmingly backed the USA Freedom Act, with a 338-to-88 vote, which would stop the bulk collection program and instead only give intelligence agencies access to telephone records when a court deems it reasonable.

The NSA’s collection of “bulk telephony metadata” came to light after former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden shared the documents with the press.

The amendments would ban the intelligence agency's mass collection of phone data – numbers, time and duration of calls – as well as emails and web addresses.

Tensions are expected to run high in the Senate over the program as the provision of the Patriot Act, which has often been cited to justify the bulk data collection program, will expire in June unless a bill is passed to extend it.

But the House bill’s fate is much less certain in the Senate, where many key lawmakers would rather reauthorize the existing bulk data collection program than approve the Freedom Act.

The bill faces opposition from the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who is adamant that the NSA program is a counter-punch by the government to help combat terrorism, and two other influential groups that want no change.

A similar bill died in the Senate in November last year after an up-or-down vote on it was blocked with a filibuster.

The debate over the issue was stirred by a federal appeals court ruling last week that found the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records illegal, as E&T reported.

“Americans' liberty and America's security can co-exist,” said House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte, who voted in favour of the bill.

“These fundamental concepts are not mutually exclusive.”

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