Senate deal failure expires US surveillance powers

The legal authority for US spy agencies to bulk collect Americans’ phone data expired, after the Senate failed to reach a deal. Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul blocked a Patriot Act extension which later lapsed. However, the Senate did vote to advance the White House-backed Freedom Act so a new form of data collection is likely to be approved in the coming days. The Freedom Act imposes more controls, after revelations by Edward Snowden. The former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor first exposed the extent of the data collection in 2013. The White House described the expiry of the deadline as an “irresponsible lapse” by the Senate. “On a matter as critical as our national security, individual senators must put aside their partisan motivations and act swiftly. The American people deserve nothing less,” it said in a statement. The failure to reach a deal means that security services have temporarily lost the right to bulk collect Americans’ phone records, to monitor “lone wolf” terror suspects and to carry out “roving wiretaps” of suspects. The government can still continue to collect information related to any foreign intelligence investigations. Analysts also said there could be workarounds to allow continued data collection in some cases. Authorities could try to argue that older legal provisions - so-called grandfather clauses - still apply. A Senate vote on the Freedom Act can come no earlier than 01:00 local time on Tuesday. The NSA, which runs the majority of surveillance programmes, stopped collecting the affected data last Sunday. The failure to reach any agreement in the rare sitting of the Senate was the result of the actions of Rand Paul. A libertarian, Mr Paul led a filibuster - using extended debates to delay or block the passing of legislation - to stop the quick passage of the Freedom Act, arguing that data collection is illegal and unconstitutional. He also blocked an extension of the Patriot Act. On Sunday he said: “This is what we fought the revolution over, are we going to so blithely give up our freedom?” After the deadline passed, he added: “Tonight begins the process of ending bulk collection. The bill will ultimately pass but we always look for silver linings. I think the bill may be replacing one form of bulk collection with another but the government after this bill passes will no longer collect your phone records.” His actions have infuriated many other Republicans. They left the chamber en masse when Mr Paul rose to speak.