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The USA Freedom Act: Bill to end NSA’s bulk collection of phone records advances

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By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bill to end the government’s bulk collection of telephone records got a unanimous go-ahead on Thursday from a second U.S. congressional committee, advancing the first legislative effort at surveillance reform since former contractor Edward Snowden revealed the program a year ago.

The House of Representatives Intelligence committee voted unanimously by voice vote for the “USA Freedom Act,” which would end the National Security Agency’s practice of gathering information on calls made by millions of Americans and storing them for at least five years.

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It would instead leave the records with telephone companies.

The panel’s vote cleared the way for the measure to be considered by the full House of Representatives, a day after the House Judiciary Committee also voted unanimously to advance a similar, but somewhat more restrictive, measure addressing the collection of telephone metadata.

Republican Michigan U.S. Representative Mike Rogers, the intelligence panel’s chairman, and Maryland Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, its top Democrat, said they were pleased the measure had garnered strong support from both Republicans and Democrats.

“Enhancing privacy and civil liberties while protecting the operational capability of a critical counterterrorism tool, not pride of authorship, has always been our first and last priority,” they said in a joint statement.

The bill, a compromise version of previously introduced legislation, remained several steps from becoming law. But its strong support by the two House committees improved its chances after a year of sharp divisions over the revelations by Snowden.

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Many lawmakers, especially those who work most closely with the intelligence community such as Rogers and Ruppersberger, had defended NSA program as legal and essential intelligence tools that have saved Americans’ lives.

Others expressed outrage and called for the immediate end of the programs as a violation of Americans’ privacy rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by David Gregorio)

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2020 Election

Even Fox News shows Trump trailing in 2020 amid market crash and fear over COVID-19

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The expanding COVID-19 epidemic and stock market crashes are not the only bad news for President Donald Trump this week.

A new Fox News poll shows Trump trailing six different Democrats in head-to-head matchups.

The poll showed Trump trailing former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Head-To-Head Polling:

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Trump is in a ‘fight-or-flight state’ over coronavirus: ‘Art of the Deal’ co-author

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On Thursday's edition of MSNBC's "The Beat," Trump biographer and "Art of the Deal" co-author Tony Schwartz laid out the president's state of mind over the coronavirus crisis.

"Let's understand Trump," said Schwartz. "Trump is the chief energy officer of this land. So, in other words, his energy has a disproportionate impact on all our energy. And he already raised the anxiety of people over the last four years considerably. He'll exploit fear if he thinks that serves him, or deny fear if he thinks that serves him."

"That's an important point," said host Ari Melber. "You're arguing, as someone who worked with him, that while we just heard about a public interest approach, you're saying you don't see him using public interest?"

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‘No time for being patronized,’ say youth climate leaders as UK cops warn parents over Fridays for Future protest

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"Young people should not be underestimated—we have a voice and we are strong."

Youth organizers of a Friday climate protest in Bristol, United Kingdom said they have "no time for being patronized" after local police sent a letter to parents warning of inadequate safety measures for the upcoming demonstration, which teenage activist Greta Thunberg and thousands of others are expected to attend.

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