'Enough is enough,' say Senate critics of NSA
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Critics of NSA spying in the Senate mounted an aggressive rebuttal Tuesday of Republicans who are pushing for a “clean” reauthorization of powers under the Patriot Act.

In a series of speeches, Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland Overnight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland Senators clinch votes to rebuke Trump on Saudi arms sale MORE (R-Utah), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (R-Nev.) Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyGOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown GOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill MORE (D-Vt.) all made the case for curbing the NSA's bulk collection of phone data, arguing the program is a threat to people’s rights.

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

The five senators support the USA Freedom Act, which is coming up for a vote in the House this week. The bill would end the NSA’s bulk collection of information about calls made in the U.S. and require the agency to obtain the data from private companies using a "specific selection term."

Lee said that even assuming the NSA isn’t abusing its surveillance powers now, there's no guarantee agency officials won't step out of bounds in the future.

"Who's to say that the NSA will always be inhabited by such people? Who's to say what the state of affairs will be a year from now?" he said. "We know in time that people tend to abuse these government programs. ... It's not a question of if things like this will be abused, it's a question of when."

Leahy added that he does not "accept that they will be very careful to make sure nothing happens to the secret data."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown GOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown Jon Stewart slams McConnell over 9/11 victim fund MORE (R-Ky.) has rejected the USA Freedom Act and is instead pushing the "clean" legislation, which would reauthorize the expiring portions of the Patriot Act for five years without changes.

McConnell and Republican Sens. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Tillis dodges primary challenge in NC MORE (N.C.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates MORE (Fla.) and Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonGOP senator: Unprovoked attacks on oil tankers 'warrant a retaliatory military strike' GOP senator: Unprovoked attacks on oil tankers 'warrant a retaliatory military strike' Senate rejects effort to block Trump's Qatar, Bahrain arms sales MORE (Ark.), defended the NSA surveillance in floor speeches last week, arguing the program is necessary to help protect America from another terrorist attack.  

Heller on Tuesday said supporters of the USA Freedom Act are "not here to strip the intelligence community of the tools to fight terrorism. ...What we are here to do is to provide the American people with the certainty that the federal government is working without violating their constitutional rights."

Last week, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals handed a victory to opponents of the NSA program. It declared that the Patriot Act’s Section 215 did not authorize the NSA to engage in sweeping collection of U.S. phone records and is therefore illegal.

Senators face a deadline of June 1, when the Patriot Act provisions expire.