Nation Briefs 05-23-14 House votes to end NSA bulk collection of phone records


WASHINGTON -- In an overwhelming vote, the House moved the U.S. closer to ending the National Security Agency's bulk collection of Americans' phone records Thursday, the most significant demonstration to date of leaker Edward Snowden's impact on the debate over privacy versus security.

But the final version of the legislation, "watered down" in the words of one supporter, also showed the limits of that impact. The bill was severely weakened to mollify U.S. intelligence agencies, which insisted that the surveillance programs that shocked many Americans are a critical bulwark against terror plots.

The bill was approved 303-121, which means most House members can now say they voted to end what many critics consider the most troubling practice Snowden disclosed -- the collection and storage of U.S. calling data by the secretive intelligence agency. Almost no other major provision designed to restrict NSA surveillance survived the negotiations to get the bill to the House floor.

To nominate Castro and Donovan: President Barack Obama will nominate San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to become housing secretary and will tap Shaun Donovan, his current housing chief, to run the budget office, a White House official said Thursday. Obama was expected to announce his latest Cabinet shuffle at the White House today after returning from an overnight trip to Chicago. He was to be joined by Castro, a 39-year-old Democratic up-and-comer, and Donovan, 48, who has led the Department of Housing and Urban Development since the start of Obama's presidency in 2009.

Owe $3.3B in back taxes: From workers in Congress and at the White House to active duty troops, more than 318,000 federal employees and retirees owe just over $3.3 billion in back taxes, the Internal Revenue Service said Thursday. That works out to nearly 3.3 percent of all 9.8 million federal workers and retirees who are behind on their taxes, which is significantly lower than the proportion of delinquent taxpayers in the overall population. The IRS estimates that to be at least 8.7 percent.

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