TIME Congress

House Approves Amendment That Would Curb Spying on Americans

Proposed legislation would bar the NSA from secretly browsing search histories, emails and chat histories without warrants

The House of Representatives called for the imposition of new safeguards that would curtail the U.S. government’s wide-reaching ability to spy on American citizens with a striking bipartisan majority during a vote late on Thursday night.

The proposed curbs on the government’s domestic spying apparatus were included in an amendment attached to the Fiscal Year 2015 Department of Defense Appropriations Act. The House approved the amendment by 293 votes to 123.

The legislation, if passed, will put an end to searches of “government databases for information pertaining to U.S. citizens, without a warrant” and prohibit the NSA from using budget it receives under the act to access “commercial tech products”— presumably computers, phones, phone networks and Internet-based services — through “back doors.”

House Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner from Wisconsin, California legislator Zoe Lofgren and Kentucky’s Thomas Massie sponsored the amendment.

“By adopting this amendment, Congress can take a sure step toward shutting the back door on mass surveillance,” said the legislators in a joint statement. “Congress has an ongoing obligation to conduct oversight of the intelligence community and its surveillance authorities.”

However, not everyone in the House was supportive. House Judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte asserted that curbs on surveillance would play in the hands of terrorists.

“This amendment would create a blind spot for the intelligence community tracking terrorists with direct connections to the U.S. homeland,” Goodlatte told Roll Call. “Such an impediment would put American lives at risk of another terrorist attack.”

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