US House Committee Votes Down NSA Bulk Collections Program

The House Judiciary Committee has voted to further a bill that would effectively wipe out the bulk metadata collection efforts of the NSA, and prevent the agency from using the information they’ve already obtained in any cases in or outside of the United States from now on.

NSA

Photo: Rena Schild / Shutterstock

The vote passed 32-0 with the committee unanimously agreeing to put a stop to the collection of data from phone records and internet providers, opting instead to leave it where it belongs on the servers of the companies themselves.

Newly voted “USA Freedom Act” will require the NSA to prove the need for each tap on a case by case basis, as well as forcing them to remove the undersea cable taps that suck up anything and everything related to digital communication and spit out a condensed report to a couple of agents on campus each morning.

“The bottom line is the amended [USA] Freedom Act makes it crystal clear that Congress does not endorse bulk collection and ensures Americans’ civil liberties are protected,” said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), co-sponsor of the bill.

Next the bill will be at the feet of the House Intelligence Committee, who have also been tinkering with their own bit of NSA-related legislation called the “FISA Transparency and Modernization Act”.

Admittedly a little less sexy or eye-catching as the “USA Freedom Act”, the bill will seek to place limits not only on the quantity of FISA requests the NSA can put in each year, but also propose tighter restrictions on the exact parameters which would warrant a request in the first place.

This could potentially hone down the long list of suspects into a tighter, more controlled version of what the agency is currently going off of, providing a more stable and well-rounded concept of what the American people are willing to sacrifice in the name of national security.

We’ve got to be glad on some level that there are a dedicated group of lawmakers assigned to the task of creating a more heavily monitored and duly processed National Security Agency, that regardless of their core politics, all of them agree that things have gotten way further out of hand than anyone could have anticipated without Edward Snowden’s help.

Alas, this is only one specific committee in the larger picture, and the full house still has yet to hand down their decision on the problem where it actually matters the most.

Luckily though, even if for some reason the legislation doesn’t successfully jump through the many hoops it will have to make it through before becoming a law, the specific stipulation of the Patriot Act that allows for bulk collection will expire by June 2015 anyway.