Senators: 'No evidence' NSA phone sweeps are useful

Three Democratic senators filed a brief in federal court on Tuesday supporting a lawsuit to end the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records.

Sens. Mark UdallMark Emery UdallDemocratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Gorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' MORE (Colo.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenWeek ahead: Senate takes up surveillance bill This week: Time running out for Congress to avoid shutdown Senate Finance Dems want more transparency on trade from Trump MORE (Ore.) and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichTrump, GOP fire back over Fusion GPS testimony Overnight Cybersecurity: Computer chip flaws present new security challenge | DOJ to offer House key documents in Russia probe | Vulnerability found in Google Apps Script Overnight Cybersecurity: Senators unveil election security bills | North Korea denies WannaCry role MORE (N.M.), who all have access to classified information as members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, argued that the controversial program does little to combat terrorism. 

"[The senators] have reviewed this surveillance extensively and have seen no evidence that the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records has provided any intelligence of value that could not have been gathered through less intrusive means," lawyers for the lawmakers wrote.  

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They argued that more targeted surveillance programs could have been used to gather the same information that the NSA obtained through the phone data collection.

"Because the government’s call-records program needlessly intrudes upon the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of Americans, [the senators] believe the bulk collection of these phone records should be ended," they wrote. 

The controversial program collects phone numbers, call times and call durations on virtually all U.S. phone calls, but not the contents of communications. 

The lawmakers filed their brief to support a lawsuit from a coalition of civil liberties groups led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. 

The lawsuit claims that the bulk collection violates constitutional rights to privacy, free speech and free association. Public Knowledge, TechFreedom, a Unitarian church and a California gun rights group also signed on to the suit, which was filed in California.

The senators are also pushing legislation to end the bulk phone data collection. 

Defenders of the program argue it is critical for "connecting the dots" and thwarting terrorist attacks.