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After a year of global criticism of the reach of American phone and data surveillance programs, the House approved new restrictions Thursday that critics dismissed as watered down.
The USA Freedom Act — backed by Republicans and Democrats and supported by President Barack Obama — would shift the collection and storage of phone metadata from the National Security Agency to private phone companies.
The measure passed 303-121, with Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio saying the bill maintains an important national security program while addressing concerns that the NSA had overstepped its authority.
"People are a lot more comfortable that the government is not storing all this metadata that we were," the Ohio Republican told reporters. "And I think we also in this bill make it clear that there's no access to this data without a court decision, and the standards for that decision are higher than what they are."