(Repeats to widen distribution, no change to headline or text)
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON May 8 A bill to end the government's
bulk collection of telephone records got a unanimous go-ahead on
Thursday from a second U.S. congressional committee, advancing
the first legislative effort at surveillance reform since former
contractor Edward Snowden revealed the program a year ago.
The House of Representatives Intelligence committee voted
unanimously by voice vote for the "USA Freedom Act," which would
end the National Security Agency's practice of gathering
information on calls made by millions of Americans and storing
them for at least five years.
It would instead leave the records with telephone companies.
The panel's vote cleared the way for the measure to be
considered by the full House of Representatives, a day after the
House Judiciary Committee also voted unanimously to advance a
similar, but somewhat more restrictive, measure addressing the
collection of telephone metadata.
Republican Michigan U.S. Representative Mike Rogers, the
intelligence panel's chairman, and Maryland Representative Dutch
Ruppersberger, its top Democrat, said they were pleased the
measure had garnered strong support from both Republicans and
"Enhancing privacy and civil liberties while protecting the
operational capability of a critical counterterrorism tool, not
pride of authorship, has always been our first and last
priority," they said in a joint statement.
The bill, a compromise version of previously introduced
legislation, remained several steps from becoming law. But its
strong support by the two House committees improved its chances
after a year of sharp divisions over the revelations by Snowden.
Many lawmakers, especially those who work most closely with
the intelligence community such as Rogers and Ruppersberger, had
defended NSA program as legal and essential intelligence tools
that have saved Americans' lives.
Others expressed outrage and called for the immediate end of
the programs as a violation of Americans' privacy rights
enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by David Gregorio)