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2 panels in House agree to curb NSA

| Thursday, May 8, 2014, 7:15 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The House crossed a major hurdle in its efforts to rein in the National Security Agency when two oversight committees agreed this week on a proposal to end the agency's practice of collecting Americans' phone records and the bulk collection of all other records, such as credit card data. The House could vote on the bill as early as this month.

It was the first sign of consensus in the bitterly divided House on the controversial NSA surveillance programs since the spying was disclosed nearly a year ago. President Obama has called for similar changes but is relying on Congress to hammer out the details. Senate oversight committees have yet to agree, which would be necessary before any new law is approved.

The House proposal — passed on Wednesday by the Judiciary Committee and Thursday by the Intelligence Committee — would strengthen privacy safeguards for Americans' communications that are swept up by the NSA. It also would require more transparency for disclosing how often private companies cooperate with the government on records requests.

Obama has not formally backed any of the proposals under consideration, but a White House spokeswoman said the bill is a “very good step.”

While civil liberties advocates consider the House bill a big step, more consensus is needed before the Obama administration stops sweeping up Americans' phone records and holding them for five years.

It's unlikely that any final decision will be made before the midterm elections in November.

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