Legislation to prevent the mass collection of phone records in the U.S. has been approved by a House Panel. The overwhelming vote against the NSA (National Security Agency) went 25-2 sending to the house floor the USA Freedom Act. The 2 votes against were from law makers arguing for more protection for civil liberties. The current legislation is a more committed version of a bill that was put before the house that stalled last May in the Senate. Further measures to strengthen the bill failed. The primary sponsor (Sensenbrenner) put forward that the U.S. Freedom Act stops secret laws, increases transparency and ends bulk collection.

The collection of phone records by the NSA relies non “blatant misreading” of The patriot Act (Anti-Terrorism). A balance between national security and privacy is the overwhelming objective. Leaks from Edward Snowden confirmed the NSA had been procuring massive amounts of phone records but no content.

The committee had struck down a number of amendments that were designed to increase privacy protection and/or further limit the collection of U.S.A. residents phone records or communications. An amendment that was hotly debated centred around stopping agencies and the FBI filtering email messages, phone calls and text messages of U.S. residents when gathered up in a further NSA program which targeted foreign terrorists.

Those backing the amendment voiced their concerns the committee was acquiescing to political pressure rather than the protection of American residents 4th Amendment constitutional rights (unreasonable searches & seizures). The USA Freedom Act seeks to prohibit the large scale collection of business records state wide and by zip code or city. The act would also make it possible for businesses, who have records requested, to challenge and question the FBI with reference to any gagging orders.

A new expert panel would also be created within the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court. This to advise judges on civil liberties and privacy, communications technology and other legal and technical matters.

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