'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 LeeThe self-fulfilling Iran prophecy No patriotic poll bump for Trump, but Soleimani strike may still help him politically Senators are politicians, not jurors — they should act like it MORE (R-Utah), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerLobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play This week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report MORE (R-Nev.) Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenators ask FDA to crack down on non-dairy milks, cheeses Lawmaker wants Chinese news outlet to register as foreign agent Overnight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request 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.


"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 McConnellCNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment Impeachment throws curveball in Iowa to sidelined senators 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 BurrMarsha Blackburn shares what book she's reading during Trump Senate trial GOP senator provides fidget spinners to Senate colleagues at lunch Juan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump MORE (N.C.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioCommerce Department withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon pushback: reports  Veronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address Senators press DHS over visa approval for Pensacola naval base shooter MORE (Fla.) and Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonSchiff closes Democrats' impeachment arguments with emotional appeal to remove Trump Commerce Department withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon pushback: reports  GOP senator provides fidget spinners to Senate colleagues at lunch 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.