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House Curbs NSA/CIA Surveillance Capabilities

June 21, 2014 (EIRNS)—In a June 19 vote also reflecting the congressional rebellion against Obama’s imperial powers, the House of Representatives voted up a bipartisan amendment to the 2015 Defense Appropriations Act which imposes new restrictions on how the National Security Agency (NSA) gains access to Americans’ e-mails and phone calls it collects without a warrant under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, the New York Times reported today.

The amendment was introduced by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), among many others.

The vote, 293-123, a veto-proof majority, was a "surprise," according to Associated Press. It bars warrantless collection of personal online information and prohibits access for the NSA and CIA into commercial tech products. Specifically, the amendment would block what is known as a "backdoor search loophole," by which the NSA can search without a warrant within a database of emails and phone calls it gathers while targetting foreigners.

The bill also prohibits the NSA from mandating or requesting that technology companies build secret flaws—so called trap doors—in hardware, software or devices that would facilitate government surveillance.

Sponsors Sensenbrenner, Lofgren, and Massie issued a statement saying "there’s no question Americans have become increasingly alarmed with the breadth of unwarranted government surveillance programs used to store and search their private data. By adopting this amendment, Congress can take a sure step toward shutting the back door on mass surveillance."