The National Security Agency’s phone-snooping program is on its last legs after senators approved the USA Freedom Act Tuesday, rewriting the sweeping Patriot Act to ban bulk collection of Americans’ data and adding more transparency checks to the secret court that oversees intelligence gathering in the hopes of heading off future surprises.
THE WASHINGTON TIMES REPORTS:
President Obama has vowed to sign the bill, and is likely to do so quickly, reimposing several Patriot Act powers that expired earlier this week after senators missed a deadline for renewing them.
But the National Security Agency’s phone metadata program has just six months to wind down and expunge its databanks, leaving intelligence officials to try to scramble to set up a new program that will leave the information with the phone companies, and only query it when investigators believe they have a terrorism lead.
Tuesday’s 67-32 Senate vote came after Republican leaders backed themselves into a corner. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who backs the NSA program and wanted to see the Patriot Act kept intact, had tried to use the schedule to force fellow senators into a take-it-or-leave-it choice. But he miscalculated the votes and the timing, sending the Senate over the deadline, undercutting his own leverage.
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