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Freedom Act may not stop spying

Even if Congress passes the USA Freedom Act, the National Security Agency might continue to collect records on virtually all U.S. phone calls, according to a top Justice Department official.

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"If the USA Freedom Act becomes law, it's going to depend on how the court interprets any number of the provisions that are in it," Deputy Attorney General James Cole said Wednesday during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has introduced the USA Freedom Act with the stated purpose of ending the NSA's bulk phone record collection program.

Leaks by Edward Snowden showed that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court granted the NSA permission to collect records on all U.S. phone calls under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, even though the law only allows the agency to collect records that are "relevant" to terrorism.

Leahy and other lawmakers have expressed shock that the NSA is using the provision to collect data on millions of Americans not suspected of any wrongdoing.

The USA Freedom Act would amend the Patriot Act to require that the records be relevant to terrorism and that they pertain to an agent of a foreign power or a person in contact with an agent of a foreign power.

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