Bid to end mass collection of phone data advances in Congress

 A bill to end spy agencies’ bulk collection of Americans’ telephone data advanced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, setting up a potential showdown over the program, which expires on June 1.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 25-2 to approve the “USA Freedom Act,” seeking to tighten control of a program publicly exposed two years ago by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

The bill would bar the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act and other intelligence authorities, and it would increase transparency and accountability in surveillance programs.

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A similar bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

The bills are supported by privacy groups but will run into opposition in Congress and at the White House.

Democratic President Barack Obama and many lawmakers want to retain the mass data-collection program as a national security tool, although they are open to changes.

A vote on the bill could take place in the House as soon as next month.

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