The NSA has begun concluding it’s storage and collection of U.S. phone records. Following failure by the Senate to determine a way forward to extend or change the previously secret program. This precedes its expiration at the end of May. The Senate returns (session) on May 31. Barring a last minute compromise the curtain may well come down on that day.
Changes will also impact on the FBI. They collate information on spies and terrorists under The Patriot Act. The USA Freedom Act was blocked by Senate Republicans. The Freedom Act would have drawn to a close The National security Agencies mass collection of records. However while still allowing a phone records search on a case by case basis. Obama had backed the bill. Also backing the bill were intelligence officials, law enforcement officials and House Republicans.
Falling short by just 3 votes shy of the sixty required for passage. Republicans cast all but 1 of the ‘NO’ votes. They felt the Freedom Act fell short in it’s remit to assist the National Security Agency. Republicans mis calculated on extending law and continued negotiations. A bill to allow a 2 month extension also failed.
The NSA will now begin curtailing searches of U.S. phone records for links to international terrorists. However it will require time to wind down operations. The phone records collection program hasn’t been identified as thwarting any plot by a terrorist.
In cases of national security The FBI refers to Section 215 (The Patriot Act) in order to gather financial and other records. The ability to also track ‘lone wolf’ terrorists is a further provision that expires. Another also allows government to tune in to terrorist suspects who replace their cell phones regularly in an effort to circumvent surveillance.
Various civil liberties groups have praised the result and have intimated they would prefer that phone records collection expires altogether. The Patriot Act (Section 215) is to justify the “to and fro” details of nearly every U.S. citizen’s phone records. When the program was exposed in 2013 (by Edward Snowden) many citizens were outraged. A similar plan to The Freedom Act was announced to preserve The National Security Agency’s role without infringing on millions of U.S. citizens private phone records.
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