White House, senators call for end to NSA phone data collection as Patriot Act renewal looms

(RT) –  A handful of US senators used a series of speeches to denounce the NSA’s ability to collect mass amounts of Americans phone data. The White House joined them in pushing for NSA reform while also advocating the renewal of key Patriot Act provisions.

The White House and the five senators — Democrats Richard Blumenthal and Patrick Leahy and Republicans Steve Daines, Dean Heller, and Mike Lee — are in support of NSA reform through the USA Freedom Act, which would curb the collection of telephone metadata. Instead, the NSA would have to acquire a warrant every time it wanted to access phone records, which would be held by telephone companies.

The bill would also extend certain expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, the government surveillance law passed in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York City and Washington, DC. Surveillance reform? Intense lobbying battle brewing over Patriot Act expiration “The administration applauds and appreciates the strong bipartisan and bicameral effort that led to the formulation of this bill, which strikes an appropriate balance between significant reform and preservation of important national security tools,” the White House said Tuesday.

“The USA Freedom Act’s significant reforms would provide the public greater trust and confidence in our national security programs and the checks and balances that form an integral part of their operation,” the White House added. “The administration supports swift House passage of the USA Freedom Act, and urges the Senate to follow suit.”

The senators took to the Upper Chamber on Tuesday to herald the bill as a way of protecting the privacy rights of Americans and to oppose any “clean,” or amendment-free, reauthorization of the Patriot Act.

“We know that for years the NSA collected metadata about billions of emails sent by innocent Americans using the same justification,” Leahy said, according to The Hill. “Should we allow the government to sweep up all of our credit card records? All of our banking or medical records?… Enough is enough.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, though, does not support the USA Freedom Act. Instead, he wants to allow the NSA to maintain its vast surveillance regime through a five-year, “clean” reauthorization of the Patriot Act.