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U.S. House votes to crack down on warrantless spying

Activists Protest NSA
Activists Protest NSA
Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images

On Jun 20, the U.S. House announced that they voted to curb N.S.A. power to spy on American civilians. In a landslide 293-123 vote, the House voted to ban the N.S.A. from looking through Americans’ communications information without a warrant. The agency has been able to look through emails and phone calls within a database, while targeting foreigners. This technique is what critics have called a “backdoor search loophole.”

The law passed was actually an amendment to the 2015 Defense Appropriations Act. A similar version of the proposal was in the original USA Freedom Act (NY Times), proposed by Michigan’s Third District Rep. Justin Amash, which was aimed at curbing N.S.A. spying. However, the House gutted the bill before passing it, causing most of the bill’s co-sponsors to vote against it.

The proposal has drawn opposition from security agencies and must pass the Senate and Obama to become law. Any attempts to curb the N.S.A. also have been met with opposition from various security agencies and the Obama Administration. The provision’s chief sponsors include: Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin; Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California; and Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky.

The amendment would also restrict how the government accesses, collects, and uses emails and phone calls without a warrant under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. The law allowed the N.S.A. to gather phone calls and emails of non-citizens abroad and American citizens who communicate with possible terror suspects without a warrant. The law passed as a result of the September 11 attacks of 2001 (NY Times).

The N.S.A. recently became the center of controversy when Edward Snowden revealed the depth of the agency’s spying. Snowden leaked N.S.A. documents to the public to educate others about the U.S. Government’s violation of its citizens’ constitutional rights. Snowden revealed that the agency was collecting American citizens’ metadata in bulk. The agency also monitored emails and cell phone communication. Furthermore, the agency has been intercepting millions of web images of citizens’ faces in an effort to further monitor U.S. citizens.