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Congress Passes, Obama Signs Pared Back Domestic Spying Bill

Former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden

Former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden

The U.S. Congress has approved sweeping changes to surveillance laws enacted after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, eliminating the bulk collection of phone records by the government which shocked the world when revealed two years ago by exiled ex-CIA contractor Edward Snowden.

Two days after Congress let the phone-records authority and other antiterror programs expire, the Senate in a 67-32 vote sent the legislation to President Barack Obama, who signed it within hours.

The legislation revives most of the expired programs, but with more limited spying powers for the National Security Agency.

Obama praised the bill, saying "It protects civil liberties and our national security."

Snowden, living in Moscow, called the measure "historic" because "Congress as well and the president himself is saying this mass surveillance has to end."

The bill's most prominent critic, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said "it surely undermines American security by taking one more tool from our warfighters at exactly the wrong time."

Based on reporting by AFP and AP