Lawmakers sent a bill to president Barack Obama today that would curtail the bulk collection of US citizens’ phone records, although it would also reinstate several other surveillance measures from the post-9/11 Patriot Act that expired at midnight Monday.
After a long and heated debate, the US Senate passed the so-called USA Freedom Act by a 67-32 margin. It takes away the government’s ability to collect and store bulk private phone records used by the National Security Agency, instead putting it in the hands of telecommunications companies, who are required share it with the NSA under a judge’s subpoena. President Obama has said he would sign the bill.
Its passage was delayed after a small group of Senate Republicans, led by GOP presidential candidate Rand Paul, joined with Democrats to nix the amendments that were added onto the bill by the House of Representatives, which would have renewed the government’s full domestic spying powers from the post-9/11 Patriot Act.
The vast scale of the government’s surveillance program under sections of the Patriot Act was revealed two years ago by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
Democratic senator Ron Wyden, a vocal opponent of NSA surveillance, called the passage of the bill ”the most significant victory for Americans’ privacy rights in more than a decade,” and that it “stands as a true endorsement of the principle that Americans do not need to sacrifice their liberty to have security.”