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Rules Committee Sets Debate For USA Freedom Act

The House Rules Committee has set the rules for the House floor debate of the USA Freedom Act (H.R. 3361).

The bill, which passed unanimously out of the Judiciary Committee two weeks ago would end bulk data collection by the National Security Agency, as well as boost transparency and reporting requirements for targeted data requests, require more specificity in those requests, and minimize retention and dissemination of nonpublic data.

The bill now goes to the House floor for one hour of debate, 40 minutes equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of Judiciary, and 20 minutes divided and controlled by the chair and ranking member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

It could be scheduled for that House vote as early as May 21 according to the office of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, which has it on the calendar for "possible consideration" this week.

There will be a mix of Republican and Democratic amendments to consider, including ones that would allow intelligence agencies to negotiate with telephone companies to store call record details for national security purposes, one that could require the government provide the public with the total number of requests for data and the number of individuals affected, requires probable cause for data searches, and prevents intelligence agencies from mandating that a device manufacturer, software developer, or standards organization build in a backdoor to circumvent encryption or privacy protections of their products.

The White House has taken some steps to reign in NSA data collection, but not enough for critics, including a host of groups planning a day of activism June 5, the anniversary of the first story about NSA surveillance, based on info from leaker Edward Snowden.

At the bill's markup, the recurring theme was that the legislation would end bulk data collection that had been conducted, but shouldn't have been, under The PATRIOT Act.