Congress Approves Bill To Overhaul NSA Phone Record Collection Program

The Senate passed a bill called the USA Freedom Act on Tuesday limiting the National Security Agency from collecting the phone records of American citizens, CNN reported. President Barack Obama says that he will sign the bill into law as soon as possible. Obama released a statement about the passing of the USA Freedom Act.

“After a needless delay and inexcusable lapse in important national security authorities, my administration will work expeditiously to ensure our national security professionals again have the full set of vital tools they need to continue protecting the country,”

The passed bill, which is expected to be signed into law, is the first legislation passed by Congress to reform post 9/11 policies surveilling American citizens.

There were some in Congress that held up the passage of the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senators John McCain, and Lindsey Graham hoped to extend the the Patriot Act, saying that the Patriot Act is best suited to protect Americans.

Senator Rand Paul, though, was of the few Republicans in Congress that actively worked to create legislation to strike down the Patriot Act. He also opposed the USA Freedom Act in his 10-hour filibuster of the Patriot Act extension.

Much of the provision in the Patriot Act expired last Sunday when Congress failed to pass measures in the post-9/11 surveillance act that were aim at countering terrorism, but also allowed the NSA to collect phone records from Americans.

The USA Freedom Act will not complete eliminate the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records, but will limit the security agency’s scope. According to the bill, the NSA bulk collection of Americans’ phone records will be collected for six months. The phone records, though, will be collected by the phone companies for the United States government to look through if they have a warrant.

The deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, Jameel Jaffer, talked about the passage of the USA Freedom Act.

“This is the most important surveillance reform bill since 1978, and its passage is an indication that Americans are no longer willing to give the intelligence agencies a blank check,”

The USA Freedom Act also requires more transparency in the decisions to issue warrants to search phone records by the FISA court (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court). The legislation will also continue some of the surveillance policies from the Patriot Act, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s ability to gather business records in terrorism investigations.

The bill was in large part created after concerns of the NSA’s bulk phone record collection policies were highlighted by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, as reported by the Inquisitr.

[Photo credit: Drew Angerer/ Getty Images News]

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