House backs curbs on phone data collection

The House of Representatives voted in favor of the USA Freedom Act – a bill that would restrict the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone records – setting up a tussle over the measure in the Senate. The Washington Post reports:

Congress must act by June 1 or the NSA’s existing authority, under Section 215 of the 2001 Patriot Act, lapses, and along with it not only the phone records program but also other intelligence authorities that the government says are crucial to detecting and preventing terrorist attacks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he plans to move forward with a renewal of the NSA’s existing authority. A federal appeals court in New York ruled last week that that law did not provide sufficient legal authority for the phone records program, but key backers of the program say they believe no changes to the law are necessary.

The New York Times reports:

So for the N.S.A., which has been internally questioning the cost effectiveness of bulk collection for years, the bill would make the agency’s searches somewhat less efficient, but it would not wipe them out. With the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the spy agencies or the F.B.I. could request data relevant to an investigation. Corporate executives have said that while they would have to reformat some data to satisfy government search requirements, they could most likely provide data quickly.

Wired writes that “Civil liberties groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others are divided in their support of the bill. Many say it’s better than nothing, but hope that the Senate will add wording to strengthen protections before passage.”


* WORLD * The Amtrak train that derailed outside Philadelphia on Tuesday night was apparently traveling at 106 mph, more than twice the limit for that particular zone, which includes a sharp curve. Details have begun to emerge of the victims of the crash, while some passengers are still missing.

* Full crash coverage from is here.

The circumstances of the crash have prompted a fresh debate over the nation’s infrastructure spending, particularly on transportation. John Cassidy writes at The New Yorker:

It’s no mystery why much of our public infrastructure is overloaded and crumbling. America is a growing country, and investment in infrastructure has failed to keep up with expanding needs. According to the Congressional Budget Office, in the nineteen-fifties and sixties we spent close to five per cent of G.D.P. on new transport and water projects, and on maintaining existing systems. European nations still spend about that much today, while China and other rapidly developing Asian countries spend close to twice as much. In the United States, however, spending on infrastructure is only about half of what it used to be, relative to G.D.P.

It’s also worth revisiting this from the FT’s Robert Wright:


Reuters has an exclusive that the Czech Republic blocked Iran from purchasing “a large shipment of sensitive technology useable for nuclear enrichment” earlier this year, after false documents raised suspicion.


* CULTURE * Former Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee is planning to launch her own late-night show.


* SPORTS * Juventus will play Barcelona for the Champions League title, after drawing 1-1 at Real Madrid, enough to see them through on aggregate.

The New York Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals in an overtime thriller to advance to the Eastern Conference final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Game One is on Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.



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