Sign outside NSA campus in Fort Meade, Md.
The sign outside the National Security Administration campus in Fort Meade, Md. Photo by AP
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A U.S. spy program that sweeps up vast amounts of electronic communications survived a legislative challenge in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, the first move to curb the surveillance effort since a worker leaked details of its scope.

The House of Representatives voted 217-205 to defeat an amendment to the defense appropriations bill that would have limited the National Security Agency's ability to collect electronic information, including phone call records.

The measure, which has been opposed by the White House and intelligence chiefs, was the first attempt to curb NSA spying since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked details about the extent of the agency's data collecting.

In June, both the Guardian and the Washington Post published revelations that U.S. security services had monitored data about phone calls from Verizon and Internet data from large companies such as Google and Facebook.

It was later released, that the information on this program was leaked by Edward Snowden.

"The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything," Snowden said in explaining his actions.

"With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife's phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards," he said.