The House on Wednesday approved by a 388-88 vote a bipartisan legislative proposal known as the USA Freedom Act, which prohibits the mass collection of telephone data and modifies the USA Patriot Act, first legislated in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The Freedom Act amends Section 215 of the Patriot Act which permits the collection of telephone data from millions of citizens not linked to terrorism, and renews the amended Act’s validity until 2019.
The bill will now move to the Senate, where its passage remains uncertain as Senate majority leader Republican Mitch McConell wants to renew the Patriot Act without change.
Most of the provisions in the Patriot Act expire on June 1, and while both Republicans and Democrats wish to renew it, a debate about whether or not to institute changes continues both inside and outside Congress.
On May 7, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York ruled against a controversial espionage programme run by the NSA, following a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The telephone data collected by the NSA under the Patriot Act includes the numbers to which calls are made, and the time and duration of calls, but not their content.