Obama signs bill remaking NSA phone records program
Updated: 2015-06-03 10:58
WASHINGTON - The US Congress approved sweeping changes Tuesday to surveillance laws enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, eliminating the National Security Agency's disputed bulk phone-records collection program affecting millions of Americans and replacing it with a more restrictive measure to keep the records in phone companies' hands.
Two days after Congress let the phone-records and several other anti-terror programs expire, the Senate's 67-32 vote sent the legislation to President Barack Obama, who signed it Tuesday night.
"This legislation will strengthen civil liberty safeguards and provide greater public confidence in these programs," Obama said in a statement. Officials said it could take at least several days to restart the collection.
The legislation will revive most of the programs the Senate had allowed to lapse in a dizzying collision of presidential politics and national security policy. But the authorization will undergo major changes, the legacy of agency contractor Edward Snowden's explosive revelations two years ago about domestic spying by the government.
Senators on the intelligence committee had been issuing veiled and vague warnings about the phone records program for years. But it was Snowden who revealed the details. He's now living in Moscow,
Snowden, reviled by lawmakers of both parties, addressed the vote via video link during an event hosted by Amnesty International. He said the legislation was historic because Americans are questioning long-held assumptions that intelligence officials always act in their best interest.In an unusual shifting of alliances, the legislation passed with the support of Obama and House Republican Speaker John Boehner but over the strong opposition of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell failed to persuade the Senate to extend the current law unchanged, and came up short in a last-ditch effort Tuesday to amend the House version, as nearly a dozen of his own Republicans abandoned him in a series of votes.