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House Intel Panel Unveils NSA Metadata Overhaul Bill

Image: Reps. Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger hold a news conference on Huawei and ZTE in Washington
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) (L) and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) leave after a news conference to release a report on "national security threats posed by Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE" on Capitol Hill in Washington October 8, 2012. U.S. telecommunications operators should not do business with China's top telecom gear makers because potential Chinese state influence on the companies poses a security threat, the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee said in a report on Monday. The report follows an 11-month investigation by the committee into Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and ZTE Corp. The companies have been fighting an uphill battle to overcome U.S. lawmakers' suspicions and expand in the United States after becoming key players in the worldwide market. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS TELECOMS)YURI GRIPAS / Reuters

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The two top members of the House Intelligence Committee unveiled a bill Tuesday that would end the government's bulk collection of metadata under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), including telephone, email and internet metadata.

The bill, according to committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., is "very, very close" to what the White House is proposing related to metadata collection.

"What we basically are doing is, number one, ending bulk collection," Ruppersberger said at a press conference. "The government will no longer, with our new bill, be able to have the metadata."

It’s unclear that the House proposal or the similar plan outlined Tuesday by the White House will have enough support to make it through a divided Congress.

Under the House proposal, the government will have to pass what is called a RAS test: a “Reasonable and Articulable Suspicion” that an individual phone number is associated with terrorism. If that test is passed, the government could request metadata phone records from phone companies for that person with "two hops” -- extending out to two more individuals.

The new bill would also prohibit the government from using the metadata program to obtain actual communications content or personally identifiable information, and it does not require phone companies to hold their metadata for any longer than they already do.

"We think that we have found a way to end the government's bulk collection of telephone metadata and still provide a mechanism to protect the United States and track those terrorists who are calling into the United States to commit acts of terror," Rogers told reporters.

Rogers and Ruppersberger met with the White House about their legislation yesterday, a meeting that Rogers said was "helpful."

"Basically, we've been working with the White House throughout the whole process, and the White House includes the intelligence community and everyone else," Ruppersberger said, "I believe we're very, very close. The White House understands that we need to do something to deal with the issue of holding bulk collection because of the perception of our constituents."

The new piece of legislation has nine additional co-sponsors, including six Republicans and three Democrats. But a timetable for consideration of the bill has not been set.

"We're not going to say a timeline by -- between now and June or July or August, we don't know," Rogers said, "We think that the more people that understand what we've done and how -- what it looks like, the more support we're going to get for it moving forward."

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