NSA bulk phone surveillance program shutting down Sunday

NSA bulk phone surveillance program shutting down Sunday

The National Security Agency will no longer be allowed to collect phone metadata in bulk beginning Sunday, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The controversial surveillance program was shut down under the USA Freedom Act, signed by President Obama in early June, and has been in a six-month transition period that ends Nov. 29.


Beginning Sunday, authorities may only obtain the records of a person or device that is “specifically identified” in connection with a terrorist or criminal threat. Under the USA Freedom Act, the surveillance must be done in such a way that it “limits the scope of information sought to the greatest extent reasonably practicable.”

Some Republican lawmakers tried to delay the termination of the metadata program, originally authorized under the post-9/11 Patriot Act, in response to the deadly terrorist attacks on Paris this month.

Sen. 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 (R-Ark.)’s Liberty Through Strength Act would have delayed the Sunday deadline for more than a year, as well as make permanent several other Patriot Act provisions.

"If we take anything from the Paris attacks, it should be that vigilance and safety go hand-in-hand,” Cotton said in a statement. “Now is not the time to sacrifice our national security for political talking points.

“We should allow the intelligence community to do their job and provide them with the tools they need to keep us safe.”

The legislation had the backing of both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' Democrats press for action on election security Hillicon Valley: Election security looms over funding talks | Antitrust enforcers in turf war | Facebook details new oversight board | Apple fights EU tax bill MORE (R-Ky.) and presidential candidate Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRepublicans wary of US action on Iran California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-Fla.), but withered in the face of support for NSA reform from both the White House and both sides of the Congressional aisle.

“With the transition period ending, the Intelligence Community has fulfilled an important Presidential commitment that allows national security professionals to retain the capabilities necessary to continue protecting the country, while strengthening the civil liberties protections that the American people cherish,” the ODNI said in a statement Friday.