Senate passes Freedom Act, reforming some NSA practices

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – To fight terrorism after 9/11, the U.S. has had the “Patriot Act” giving government the power to protect Americans, but it expired Sunday night.

Now, there is a new deal and within the last few minutes, President Obama has signed it.

This past weekend, the Nation’s security got entangled with politics. Senator Rand Paul believed passionately that America should not spy on Americans by gathering bulk phone records.

He fought and he won.

But don’t be misled, phone records will still be collected and saved. It just won’t be the government doing it and it will take a year for the National Security Agency to wind down the program.

The Senate went up to the Patriot Act expiration deadline and then went two days past it.

But in the end, Senators voted 67-32 for the same USA Freedom Act Bill the House had.

“The President will quickly sign it into law and give our law enforcement professionals once again tools that they say are critical in their efforts to keep the country safe,” said Josh Earnest, the White House Press Secretary.

For the time, the bill was in limbo, intelligence agencies could not use surveillance tools in place since 2006.

Under the USA Freedom Act, among other things, the government will no longer collect telephone metadata from million of Americans.

The new bill gives the job to phone companies.

The bill also requires the government to be more specific with warrants to get that phone metadata.

“The NSA could go to the foreign intelligence surveillance court and get a warrant, but the warrant could only name a specific person,” said Representative James Sensenbreener from Wisconsin.

Some Republicans wanted even tighter control on surveillance.

“There are a number of us who feel very strongly that this is a significant weakening of the tools that were put in place in the wake of 9/11 to protect the country,” said Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican Majority Leader.

Now with the President’s signature, the USA Freedom Act is the law, but that does not mean the Patriot Act provisions will go away quietly.

In fact, the bulk collection of phone records by the government will resume immediately and be phased out over the next year.

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