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US House approves extension of NSA foreign surveillance program

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] approved a bill [S 139 text, PDF] Thursday that extends Title VII of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.

The bill was approved by a vote [vote record] of 256-164.

Title VII allows the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] to target foreign persons outside of the US for surveillance and intelligence gathering. Title VII was set to expire December 31, 2017. However, the current bill will extend the expiration date six years to December 31, 2023.

The bill also increases the maximum penalty for the unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents from one year of imprisonment to five years of imprisonment. Contractors of the intelligence community are also added to the whistle blower protections sections of the National Security Act of 1947.

Privacy concerns have caused a significant amount of debate regarding the implementation of surveillance laws. In March the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy [official website], Joseph Cannataci, condemned [JURIST report] surveillance laws in the US, UK, France and Germany. Edward Snowden was a government contractor when he disclosed [JURIST report] documents detailing US surveillance efforts in 2013.

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