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Bill to end NSA's mass surveillance moves closer to a vote

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The House Judiciary Committee is getting ready to begin mark up procedures on the USA Freedom Act, a bill that would effectively end the NSA's mass surveillance program as it exists today. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, is the man behind the bill and he's got tons of backing from the tech and privacy communities. That support probably has something to do with the alternative bill currently with the House Intelligence Committee which many agree doesn't do enough to rein in the NSA. In an effort to get it through committee with its teeth intact a slew of nonprofits and major companies, including the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, DropBox, Mozilla and Reddit have signed a letter to its members stating their support. Plus there are 140 co-sponsors in the House and a sister bill working its way through the Senate with the support of Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sensenbrenner, who has cast himself as a vociferous opponent of the NSA's overreach, is actually largely responsible for the program. He is credited as one of the architects of the Patriot Act, and introduced that far-reaching law to the House. It's the provisions of the Patriot Act, signed into law by George W. Bush after the September 11th attacks, that form the legal foundation of the NSA's surveillance programs. It wasn't until recently that the long-time Wisconsin representative seemed to take umbrage to the domestic spying programs.

Even with the support of 140 house members and dozens of organizations there's still no guarantee the USA Freedom act will ever become law. The intelligence committee is bound to fight tooth and nail for its own version. And president Obama may very well veto the law if it fails to include provisions like immunity for the telecos.

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