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US House Votes to End NSA Phone Collection Program

FILE - The National Security Agency's Utah Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah.

Legislation that would end the U.S. National Security Agency's massive collection of telephone records of ordinary Americans has been overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives.

The legislation, known as the USA Freedom Act, passed Wednesday by a vote 338-to-88. Instead of the bulk collection of phone records, including the date, time, and duration of the phone call, the bill would require the NSA to obtain the records from private phone companies after getting a court order from a secret national security court.

The program came under fire from advocates of civil liberties after former contractor Edward Snowden disclosed it to journalists in 2013. The House bill received strong support from both liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans, as well as President Barack Obama.

The measure now moves over to the Senate, where it is strongly opposed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has sponsored a measure that would renew the current program. However, a large bipartisan faction are also demanding an end to the NSA program, which could force McConnell to bring the reform measure up for a vote.

The NSA bulk telephone collection program was authorized under the USA Patriot Act, which was passed in days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on Washington, D.C. and New York City. A federal appeals court in New York just last week ruled the NSA bulk phone collection program was illegal, but refused to issue an injunction against the agency.

The section of the USA Patriot Act that authorized the NSA program is due to expire on June 1st.