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US House votes to end NSA phone data collection

The lower house of the US Congress has approved a measure to end the bulk collection of Americans' phone data. The program was first revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The United States House of Representatives voted Wednesday to approve a bill to end the bulk collection of Americans' telephone data by spy agencies.

The bill - entitled the USA Freedom Act - passed by a vote of 338-88 with broad bipartisan support. It would end the bulk collection of phone data and instead give intelligence agencies access to telephone data and other records only with the approval of a federal national security court.

The vote came just one week after a US appeals court

ruled that the bulk data collection program had gone too far.

"Americans' liberty and America's security can co-exist," said Republican Representative Bob Goodlatte, who voted in favor of the bill. "These fundamental concepts are not mutually exclusive."

The bipartisan nature of the bill could potentially set up a clash with the US Senate over the program, pressuring Republican Senate Majority Mitch McConnell to allow a vote on the bill.

If implemented, the changes would not limit the NSA's ability to monitor the data of foreign citizens without a court order.

Showdown with Senate

Senate Republicans have said they would rather renew the existing bulk data collection program, authorized under the USA Patriot Act, which was passed after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The bulk data collection operated in complete secrecy after 2001 and was under the supervision of a US Federal court since 2006. Both the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama renewed the program.

Continuing the program, which was exposed in 2013 by former National Security Agency employee

Edward Snowden,

is expected to meet with strong resistance in the House.

US House Speaker John Boehner praised the bill for enhancing transparency, while giving authorities flexibility to pursue terrorists.

"Terrorists across the globe are bent on destroying our nation and our way of life, and we must provide our intelligence community the tools it needs to stop them," Boehner said.

If the House bill eventually becomes law, it would represent one of the most significant changes in US policy resulting from the Snowden leaks. The White House said President Obama supports the Freedom Act reforms.

bw/cmk (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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