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House approves curb on NSA surveillance

by BETHANY LU Staff Writer

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted and approved legislation on a bill that ultimately limits the National Security Agency’s (NSA) ability to collect domestic phone records.

On May 22, 2014, the bill, a reformation of the USA Freedom Act endorsed by President Barack Obama, was passed 303-121. The new enforcement imposes constraints on phone surveillance, a major issue since the beginning of the year.

Under this amended legislation, the NSA will still be granted authority to collect phone records for terrorism prevention purposes, but will force supervision of all activities by the public and the national government.

According to Wisconsin Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, who also took part in the 2001 USA Patriot Act, the restrictions approved were to impose limits after government intelligence agencies misused the powers granted by Congress over American phone records. Now, citizens can also keep watch of the NSA, differing from the past where the NSA was allowed to monitor others without discretion.

“The days of the NSA indiscriminately vacuuming up more data than it can store will end with the USA Freedom Act,” Sensenbrenner said. “In the post-Freedom Act world, we have turned the tables on the NSA and can say to them, ‘we are watching you.’”

The bill now heads to the Senate where further amendments will be made.

“I would root for this bill. It’s weird to think that national government is watching over me like a parent,” says freshman Christina Yang.

However, the bill’s prohibition on the bulk collection of American’s phone records has been raising some questions and controversy about its effectiveness.

According to NSA officials, the new arrangement allows them to have deeper access to many more mobile phone records, unlike the existing program.

Representative Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from the state of California, says, “[The bill] will not end bulk collection, regretfully…we have learned that if we leave any ambiguity in law, the intelligence agencies will run a truck right through that ambiguity.”

Nuala O’Connor, president and CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said that rather than this legislation being a design to prohibit bulk phone collections, it has been made so weak that it fails to adequately protect against mass collection.

Many technology companies such as Google and Facebook also withdrew their support from this bill. They displayed their concerns by stating that this will legalize heavier bulk collection.

“I feel conflicted that the NSA is collecting our phone records. On one hand, it will increase security for the whole. However, the cost for that is my privacy and I am not entirely comfortable about that,” says freshman Anurva Saste.

The bill is still in a wavering position on its effectiveness with citizens. According to some officials, it still needs reforming to avoid any weaknesses.

What was your reaction upon hearing this new law and how phone surveillance will become affected?

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