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House approves limits on NSA data searches

June 21, 2014 - 12:05am

WASHINGTON — The House on Friday passed a defense spending bill with an amendment that would bar the National Security Agency from conducting warrantless searches of its databases for Americans’ communications records.

Although the NSA is permitted to acquire without individualized warrants the communications of foreigners overseas, it has also been allowed to search those records for the communications of Americans in what some lawmakers have called a “backdoor search loophole.”

The amendment, adopted late Thursday night by a wide margin, would ban that practice. The provision would also prohibit the government from requiring companies to alter their hardware or software products to assist the NSA or CIA with electronic surveillance.

The two-thirds bipartisan vote, sponsors say, is a signal to the intelligence community and its House supporters that a reform package passed in May did not go far enough. It comes a year after disclosures about NSA surveillance have stoked debate about the proper balance between privacy and national security and how far to rein in government surveillance powers.

Despite opposition from Intelligence