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The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a bipartisan amendment limiting the ability of the National Security Agency to spy on U.S. citizens.
The amendment passed 293-123, with a majority of both Democrats and Republicans voting for it. (Via U.S. House of Representatives)
Rep. Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California, proposed and passed an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill closing off the "incidental" loophole in a late-night session. (Via Flickr / Gage Skidmore, Lingjing Bao)
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 that the NSA routinely collects intelligence on millions of U.S. citizens without a warrant. (Via The Guardian)
The NSA’s reasoning, as approved by former President George W. Bush and maintained by President Obama, holds that as long as the "target" of a surveillance effort is a foreigner, any "incidental" intelligence gathered is fair game for the NSA. (Via Washington Times)
The agency's logic has been criticized by politicians and civil liberty advocates such as Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence.
"I particularly believe that the bulk collection of hundreds of millions of phone call records of law-abiding Americans is a very substantial invasion of privacy," Wyden said. (via CNN)
Controversy over NSA practices has scrambled party allegiances and created unlikely allies in a divided Congress. (Via The New York Times)
Privacy advocates praised the legislation. In a statement, the Electronic Frontier Foundation called the amendment's passage "a great day in the fight to rein in NSA surveillance abuses."
The amendment's large margin of victory puts pressure on Obama, who has defended the NSA's surveillance practices. Obama has the option of vetoing the bill. (Via U.S. News and World Report)
"I think, on balance, we — you know, we have established a process and a procedure that the American people should feel comfortable about," Obama said. (Via The New York Times)
But before it gets to the president, the amendment must also survive the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has downplayed the significance of the NSA surveillance revelations in the past.
"I think everyone should just calm down and understand that this isn't anything that is brand new," Reid said. (Via CBS News)
But the Senate is also home to powerful NSA critics. Sens. Steve Udall, Ron Wyden and Rand Paul have been vocal opponents of domestic spying. (Via The Hill)
The Senate is planning to take up the Defense Appropriations bill in July.