NSA Phone Data Collection Program Lapses As Deadline Passes


nsaThe National Security Agency’s ability to collect the phone records of millions of Americans in bulk expired late Sunday after the Senate failed to strike a deal before the midnight deadline.

However, that program, as well as several other post-9/11 counterterrorism measures, were likely to be revived in some form in the coming days after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. reluctantly embraced a House-passed bill that would extend the anti-terror provisions, while also remaking the bulk phone collections program.

Members of the GOP-controlled chamber had returned to Capitol Hill for a rare Sunday afternoon session in a last-ditch effort to extend the NSA’s authority to search for terror connections and to authorize two other programs under the Patriot Act, which took effect in the weeks after the 2001 attacks.

The Senate attempted to either pass the House bill, known as the USA Freedom Act, or simply extend the bulk collection program.

The 100-member chamber passed the first of two procedural hurdles, known as cloture, to proceed with the House bill, known as the USA Freedom Act. The vote was 77 to 17.

The Majority Leader had preferred to extend the current law. But with most senators opposed to extending the current law unchanged, even for a short time, McConnell said the House bill was the only option left other than letting the NSA program die off entirely.

“It’s not ideal but, along with votes on some modest amendments that attempt to ensure the program can actually work as promised, it’s now the only realistic way forward,” McConnell said.

“We shouldn’t be disarming unilaterally as our enemies grow more sophisticated and aggressive, and we certainly should not be doing so based on a campaign of demagoguery and disinformation launched in the wake of the unlawful actions of Edward Snowden,” McConnell said, referring to the former NSA contractor who revealed the agency’s bulk data collection program in June 2013.

But no final action was taken before the deadline after Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., served notice that he would assert his prerogatives under Senate rules to delay a final vote for several days.

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