House Passes Measure Reining In Government Surveillance

Lawmakers passed a bill ending the NSA's practice of collecting phone records of Americans. Instead, phone companies would hold the data and the NSA would face additional legal barriers to search it.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

One year ago, President Obama called to reshape the fight against terrorism and for more privacy protections as the government intercepts new types of information. Just days later, the extent of data collection by the NSA would be revealed by Edward Snowden. Yesterday, the House passed legislation reining in government surveillance.

NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Wisconsin Republican James Sensenbrenner helped write the USA Freedom Act, which aims to end the National Security Agency's bulk collection of Americans' communications records.

REPRESENTATIVE JAMES SENSENBRENNER: As a result of the Freedom Act passing the House, the NSA might still be watching us, but now, we can watch them.

WELNA: The bill calls for greater disclosure of the NSA's surveillance activities, a response to the public outcry over the disclosure of bulk collection last year. Most members of both parties voted for it.

John Conyers is a Michigan Democrat.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN CONYERS: This is a great move forward. We think that our civil liberties are protected.

WELNA: But civil liberties watchdogs say the bill was watered down too much. Elizabeth Goitein is with the Brennan Center for Justice.

ELIZABETH GOITEIN: It's not enough. We need more reform in order to ensure that the NSA surveillance authorities are properly tailored to threat we actually face.

WELNA: She and others hope the Senate will produce a stronger version of the bill. David Welna, NPR News, Washington.

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