US House panel advances bill aimed at limiting NSA spying programme

A Dish Network satellite dish is shown on a residential home in Encinitas, California, US on Nov 8, 2017.
A Dish Network satellite dish is shown on a residential home in Encinitas, California, US on Nov 8, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A US House panel on Wednesday (Nov 8) passed legislation seeking to overhaul some aspects of the National Security Agency's warrantless internet surveillance programme, overcoming criticism from civil liberties advocates that it did not include enough safeguards to protect Americans'privacy.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 27-8 to approve the bill, which would partially restrict the US government's ability to review American data collected under the foreign intelligence programme by requiring a warrant in some cases.

Lawmakers in both parties were sharply divided over whether the compromise proposal to amend what is known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would enshrine sufficient privacy protections or possibly grant broader legal protections for the NSA's surveillance regime.

"The ultimate goal here is to reauthorise a very important programme with meaningful and responsible reforms," Republican Bob Goodlatte, who chairs the committee, said.

"If we do not protect this careful compromise, all sides of this debate risk losing."

Passage of the House bill sets up a potential collision with two separate pieces of legislation advancing in the US Senate, one favored by privacy advocates and one considered more acceptable to US intelligence agencies.

Congress must renew Section 702 in some form before Dec 31 or the program will expire.