'Unmasking' crackdown bill gets House panel's OK

The House Intelligence Committee approved a bill Friday to “crack down” on political “unmasking,” or unlawfully revealing the identities of private citizens linked to intelligence operations.

The new protections are part of a broader bill that would effectively renew Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a program used by the government to collect communication data from foreign agents and potential terrorists.

Though collecting information on Americans is prohibited without a warrant, Americans' information can be collected if they are communicating with a foreign target.

The panel approved the bill along party lines, in a 13-8 vote. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is reauthorized for four years until 2021, Reuters reported.

Democrats reportedly complained of intermingling of the “unmasking fight” with the efforts to renew the Section 702 powers – which are due to expire at the end of this year.

Both Republicans and Democrats generally agreed on the need for greater transparency and the more restrictions on the act of collecting Americans’ data, the Washington Times reported.

But the two parties disagreed on the practice of "unmasking."

Republicans accused the Obama administration of abusing the practice of "unmasking," pointing to Samantha Power, a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., who reportedly asked for 300 unmaskings during her tenure.

Section 702 was supposedly instrumental in helping thwart multiple terrorist plots, including a 2009 conspiracy to bomb the New York City subway.