The NSA is no longer authorized to spy on US citizens — for now

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Credit: Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com

The US Senate failed to pass legislation extending legal authority of the country’s spy agencies — including the National Security Agency (NSA) — to collect data on American citizens’ communications on Sunday, reports Reuters.

Senator Rand Paul blocked an extension of the Patriot Act in a rare Sunday meeting at the Senate. With that, the NSA is no longer authorized to collect US citizens’ newly created phone records en masse.

The expiration of three key provisions of the Patriot Act also means that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) cannot invoke it to obtain wiretap orders for ‘lone wolf’ terrorism suspects who aren’t linked to a group, or court orders to secure business records for investigation.

While that might spell relief for those opposed to mass surveillance, all is not won yet. The Justice Department could invoke a grandfather clause to extend these powers for investigations that had started before June 1 this year.

The Patriot Act is likely to be succeeded by the USA Freedom Act, which doesn’t allow for bulk data collection.

Rather, it does allow intelligence agencies like the NSA to request data from companies on a specific entity — say a person or a device — provided they can prove that said entity is linked to a foreign power or terrorist organization.

➤ Senate lets NSA spy program lapse, at least for now [Reuters]

Image credit: Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com

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