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 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 WydenRon WydenTrump's Democratic tax dilemma Senate Dems push Trump admin to protect nursing home residents' right to sue Overnight Finance: Trump-Russia probe reportedly expands to possible financial crimes | Cruel September looms for GOP | Senate clears financial nominees | Mulvaney reverses on debt ceiling MORE (Ore.) and Martin HeinrichMartin HeinrichWhat veterans have to lose in Trump’s national monument review Senators fight proposed tariffs on solar panels Economy adds impressive 209K jobs in July 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.