'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 LeeExclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan Manufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank Overnight Defense: GOP grumbles after Trump delays military projects for wall | House panel hints at subpoena for Afghanistan envoy | Kabul bombing raises doubts about Taliban talks 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 LeahyThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine On The Money: Trump delays increase in China tariffs until Oct. 15 | Treasury says US deficit topped trillion in 11 months | Defense spending bill advances over Democratic wall objections 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 McConnellHillary Clinton: Voter suppression has led to 'crisis in democracy' in the US New York Times authors blame Kavanaugh correction on editing error: 'There was zero intent to mislead' The Hill's Morning Report - What is Trump's next move on Iran? 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 BurrLawmakers applaud Trump's ban on flavored e-cigarettes Trump to hold campaign rally in North Carolina day before special House election Hoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post MORE (N.C.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioCalifornia poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation GOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' MORE (Fla.) and Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant Cotton2020 Democrats raise alarm about China's intellectual property theft Bolton returns to political group after exiting administration Meadows, Cotton introduce bill to prevent district judges from blocking federal policy changes 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.