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Bill That Would Curb NSA's Bulk Collection Of Phone Data Advances In House

A bill that would end the National Security Agency's bulk collection of Americans' telephone data has advanced in the House, when the Judiciary Committee voted 25-2 in favor ofthe USA Freedom Act.

The bill would also curb a few other NSA activities that came into the spotlight after Edward Snowden leaked a cache of classified documents.

Among them: The bill would allow individual companies to challenge so-called National Security Letters, which are a type of subpoena issued by the FBI that come with a gag order; the bill would also make significant opinions from a secret court public.

The Judiciary Committee actually wrestled with a much broader bill. As The Hill reports, one of the amendments that was voted down by the committee would have curbed the government's ability to collect Americans' Internet communication without a warrant and would have prohibited the U.S. from forcing tech companies to leave a backdoors in networking devices.

The Hill reports:

"The discussion during Thursday's markup offered a fascinating glimpse into the political calculations and sacrifices lawmakers make in order to advance legislation.

"While every committee member who spoke up was in support of the amendment, it ultimately failed because of fear that it would kill the overall bill.

"'We have been assured if this amendment is attached to this bill, this bill is going nowhere,' Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said. 'This amendment is objected to by many in positions who affect the future of this legislation.'"

Congress has to act on this issue because some parts of the Patriot Act, which authorize certain surveillance programs, expire on June 1.

The Senate has introduced a bill similar to the USA Freedom Act.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.