Siobhan Gorman

House Passes Bill Overhauling NSA Phone Program

The US House of Representatives passed a bill overhauling the National Security Agency's heavily criticized telephone-surveillance program -- the first legislative move responding to revelations about the agency's spying by former government contractor Edward Snowden.

The bill, which passed 303-121, would restructure the way the NSA collects and searches Americans' phone records as it investigates terrorism. Instead of collecting millions of Americans' phone records en masse, the NSA will ask phone companies to query their databases for connections to suspicious phone numbers.

The fate of the bill now lies with the Senate, where the measure received a key endorsement from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT)). He said his committee will take up the bill next month.

However, the House bill faced last-minute opposition from lawmakers concerned that the measure's language had been revised in a way that would expand the scope of spy agency data searches.

Critics have vowed to pursue a more restrictive version of the provisions in the Senate.

"While far from perfect, this bill is an unambiguous statement of congressional intent to rein in the out-of-control NSA," said Laura Murphy of the American Civil Liberties Union. "We will fight to secure additional improvements in the Senate."