Today the House of Representatives passed the USA Freedom Act, a measure to end the NSA's bulk collection of metadata. The bill received broad support in the House, with 338 votes for the bill and 88 against, but will now face a tougher road in the Senate.
The Patriot Act's Section 215 expires June 1st
The vote's timing was no coincidence: on June 1st, the NSA's authority to obtain phone metadata, granted by Section 215 of the Patriot Act, will expire. Rather than granting a full renewal of that authority, the Freedom Act keeps that metadata in the hands of telecoms, who can search for the information after receiving a court order that specifies information like a person or account. The bill also takes transparency measures, giving telecoms more options to publicly report on national security requests.
The bill is meant to bridge the divide between Democrats hoping to fully end the NSA's power and Republicans hoping for a full renewal under the Patriot Act's Section 215. (President Barack Obama has also thrown his support behind the bill.) But the Freedom Act has still proven controversial: last year, a version of the bill was passed in the House, but eventually voted down in the Senate.
Civil rights groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation have declined to support the new bill, arguing that it doesn't go far enough to stop NSA spying. Meanwhile, high-ranking Senate Republicans — including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — have publicly denounced the bill, with some hoping instead to pass a so-called "clean" renewal of the Patriot Act. While the House was expected to approve the bill, its chances for survival in the Senate are much less clear.