16:45 GMT04 March 2021
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    Legislators in the US Senate believe the NSA surveillance program will be extended at the last hour.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Legislators in the US Senate believe the soon-to-expire National Security Agency's (NSA) surveillance program will be extended at the last hour, local media reported on Saturday.

    Media reports appeared earlier in the day claiming confirmation from President Barack Obama's administration the NSA was wrapping up portions of the program authorized by a Patriot Act provision due to expire on May 31. A 57-42 tally in the Senate fell three votes short of extending the controversial program allowing the intelligence agency to access and store US citizens' phone records.

    "Going dark won't be the end of the world. Even if it does for a week or so doesn't mean all the data's lost," Navada Senator Dean Heller was quoted as saying by Politico. "It just means you bring it up weeks later."

    North Carolina Senator Richard Burr argued that the database of US citizens' phone records "doesn't go poof and go away," calling White House threats to shut it down "disingenuous."

    "My staff was out there talking to the lawyers today, and they would begin at 4 p.m. on the 31st," Burr told the political journalism outlet.

    The Senate is expected to vote on the measure hours before the Patriot Act's portions expire on May 31, while the House is not expected in the US Capitol until June 1.

    Under the US Freedom Act, which passed the House of Representatives 10 days ago, the NSA would be required to move its telephone metadata collection program into the hands of communications providers within six months, amending the Patriot Act.

    The full Congress has until June 1 to either reauthorize or amend the Patriot Act. If they fail to meet that deadline, the sections of the Patriot Act that are up for renewal will expire, leaving the bulk collection of phone metadata without legal authorization.

    On May 7, a US federal appeals court ruled that the NSA's mass phone surveillance program exceeded the scope of what the US Congress had authorized under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

    Section 215 has been legally interpreted by NSA and two presidential administrations to justify the mass surveillance program on US citizens.


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    Patriot Act, US Senate, National Security Agency (NSA), US
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