The U.S. Senate voted today to pass the USA Freedom Act, which passed the House a few weeks ago. The vote was 67 to 32. The bill will now go to President Barack Obama, who tweeted earlier today that he will sign the legislation as soon as it reaches his desk.
The act renews key provisions of the Patriot Act, which lapsed over the weekend.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, one of the ‘no’ votes, had hoped to amend the USA Freedom Act to eliminate some of the reforms it contains that were designed to provide greater control over government surveillance programs; however, the Senate rejected all amendments and passed the House version.
Of the 32 votes against passage of the bill, 30 were Republicans. (See the roll call vote here.)
One of the major reforms in the USA Freedom Act concerns the bulk collection of metadata (i.e. Americans’ phone records).
-Resume the National Security Administration’s (NSA) data collection program, but only for a transition period of six months. After that, the legislation would no longer allow the NSA to sweep up Americans’ records in bulk. Instead, it would leave the records with phone companies and give the government the ability to seek access with a warrant.
-Continue other post-9/11 surveillance provisions that also lapsed Sunday night. These include the FBI’s authority to gather business records in terrorism and espionage investigations and to more easily eavesdrop on suspects who are discarding cellphones to avoid surveillance.
-Create a panel to provide the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court with guidance on privacy and civil liberties matters.
-Increase transparency for the surveillance court’s decisions.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., filibustered the renewal of the Patriot Act over the weekend, arguing that certain provisions violated Americans’ Fourth Amendment protection from unlawful searches and seizures. The senator voted against the USA Freedom Act on Tuesday, arguing the bill does not go far enough to protect Americans’ privacy.
This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth