CAPITOL ERROR White House slams Senate over Patriot Act fail
WASHINGTON: The National Security Agency has lost its authority to collect Americans’ phone records in bulk, after an extraordinary weekend Senate session failed to produce a deal to extend the fiercely contested program.
Intelligence officials warned that the outcome amounts to a win for extremist groups and puts the safety of Americans in jeopardy.
The White House also denounced the Senate for what it called its “irresponsible” failure to prevent a lapse in crucial counterterror operations.
“We call on the Senate to ensure this irresponsible lapse in authorities is as short-lived as possible,” White House press secretary Joshua Earnest said.
But civil liberties groups applauded the demise, at least temporarily, of the once-secret program made public by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, which critics say is an unconstitutional intrusion into the privacy of citizens.
Lawmakers failed to seal the deal on the USA Freedom Act, which would also preserve important national security provisions, or pass a shortterm extension of those provisions first codified in the USA Patriot Act in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks of 2001.
“The Patriot Act will expire tonight,” said Senator Rand Paul after hours of ultimately fruitless debate on how to get the reform Bill across the finish line.
Senator Paul, a 2016 presidential candidate, singlehandedly blocked expedited votes on the measure, as well as any potential extensions of Patriot Act authorisations.
“This is what we fought the revolution over, are we going to so blithely give up our freedom? ... I’m not going to take it anymore,” Senator Paul said.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell countered: “We shouldn’t be disarming unilaterally as our enemies grow more sophisticated and aggressive, and we certainly should not be doing so based on a campaign of demagoguery and disinformation launched in the wake of the unlawful actions of Edward Snowden.”
The reform Bill appeared likely to pass this week, but the delay means the bulk data program and two other provisions, allowing roving wiretaps to be placed on terror suspects as well as tracking of lone wolves,