NSA Winding Down Collection of Phone Records
The National Security Agency started to wind down its collection as well as storage of phone record in the U.S. after the Senate could not agree on a way to move forward to extend or change the program that at one time was top secret ahead of its scheduled expiration of May 31.
Barring an compromise in the eleventh hour, when the Senate comes back in session on May 31, a much debated amendment to the Patriot Act, and some other surveillance tools that are lesser known, the Act will come to an end.
The change would also have a big impact on the FBI, which also uses the Patriot Act as well as other provisions to obtain records in the investigations of suspected terrorists and spies.
In a scene that was nothing less than chaotic, during the wee hours on Saturday, Republicans in the senate blocked a bill referred to as USA Freedom Act, which would have brought an end to the bulk collection by NSA but preserve its right to search records held by the phone companies on the basis of case-by-case.
The President, Republicans in the House and the top law enforcement in the nation as well as officials in intelligence supported the measure.
The vote was three votes short of the 60 needed to be passed. All no votes but one were cast by the Republicans, some of whom commented that they thought the new Act did not go far enough the help the spy agency maintain capabilities.
If the leaders of the Senate Republicans were hoping to extend the current law and to continue negotiations, they made a miscalculation. Democrats along with libertarian minded GOP members refused to agree.
A measure to grant an extension of two months for the Patriot Act failed and senators objected each time Mitch McConnell the Majority Leader in the Senate offered an extension for just a short term.
The failure of acting on this means that NSA will begin to immediately curtail its searches of all phone records domestically for connections to terrorists.
The Department of Justice did say that this would take a period to taper off from the collection process.