Lawmakers aim to close the NSA's 'backdoor'

A bipartisan duo in the House is hoping to use a defense funding bill to keep the National Security Agency (NSA) from spying on the Internet.

Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) are introducing an amendment to the 2015 Defense Appropriations bill that would keep intelligence agencies from using funds to conduct warrantless and “backdoor” searches of U.S. communications.

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The amendment would cut off funding for efforts to build security vulnerabilities, or “backdoors,” into U.S. tech products or services that can be used for surveillance, according to a memo from the lawmakers’ offices.

The provision would also prevent agencies from searching communications to or from people in the U.S. without a warrant, according to the memo.

While the authority for those searches is aimed at collecting foreign communications, information about U.S. persons can be swept up if one party is based in the U.S. or if the communication is processed or stored in another country.

The defense bill will be considered on the House floor on Wednesday.

Lofgren and Massie introduced a similar amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which the House passed last month.

The amendment from Lofgren and Massie, as well as other amendments to the funding bill to reform the NSA, did not make it past the House Rules Committee.

Privacy groups applauded the lawmakers’ most recent attempt to rein in the NSA.

In a Wednesday letter to House leadership, two dozen groups and companies — including Google, the ACLU, the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute and Access — backed the amendment’s two-pronged approach to limiting surveillance capabilities.

“Both of these measures would make appreciable changes that would advance government surveillance reform and help rebuild lost trust among Internet users and businesses, while also preserving national security and intelligence authorities,” the letter said.

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