House Votes To End Bulk Collection Of Phone Records By NSA
On Wednesday, the House voted to end the bulk collection of American phone records by the National Security Agency. The system, as was voted, will be replaced by one wherein data held by telephone companies will be searched on a case-by-case basis.
The House voted 388-88 in favor of bringing the program to an end.
The move came weeks before the Patriot Act provisions, which allows collecting phone records, expires on June 1.
According to Reuters, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and several other senior Republican senators said they would prefer a renewal of the provision of collecting phone records. The program, authorized under the USA Patriot Act, was approved in the wake of September 11, 2001 attacks.
The USA Freedom Act is supported by President Barack Obama. Although the House had passed a bill similar to this last year, it failed in the Senate.
According to Boston Herald, the program allows the details – including the number called, along with the date, time and duration of the call – to be collected; however, people’s names and the content are not. This information is then scrutinized by a team of analysts who match the phone numbers against those of known terrorists.
The controversial disclosure by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in 2013, who leaked several secret documents revealing NSA’s practice of gathering phone records, can potentially affect the 2016 presidential elections.
However, government officials and private experts said that the USA Freedom Act does not encompass only the collection of phone records. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), they added, has used the Patriot Act and court rulings to keep a tab on hotel stays and international wire transfers.
Peter Swire, professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said, “The big news in the USA Freedom Act is to limit bulk collection programs.
“One (court) order would no longer authorize a bulk collection program, whether for telephone metadata or for other purposes.”
Swire served on a review commission appointed by President Obama after Snowden’s revelations.
On Tuesday, NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers and FBI Director Jim Comey briefed the senators about the program. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who supports the current law, said that NSA’s data collection does not include most mobile calls especially when most people have stopped using landlines.
According to New York Daily News, Corker said, “The way it’s being implemented today, I don’t see how it’s … useful at all to the American people.
“And I’m shocked, shocked … by the small amount of data that is even part of the program. It needs to be ramped up.”
Rep. Jim Himes, a Connecticut Democrat on the intelligence committee, said that if the legislation is passed, “Americans will now rest easy knowing that their calls and other records will not be warehoused by the government, no matter how careful the government is in their procedures to access those files.”
You might also be interested in: Suspected Serial Killer Identified After 7 Bodies Found Behind New Britain Shopping Center