Patrick Semansky/AP file photo

National Security Agency Starts to Shut Down Mass-Spying Program

Republicans said the White House was being "disingenuous" by threatening to shutter the surveillance program.

 Senators will return to Washington next Sunday for a last-minute, last-ditch effort to reach an agreement on the National Security Agency's bulk surveillance, but the Obama administration says it's already shutting the program down.

"We've said for the past several days that the wind-down process would need to begin yesterday if there was no legislative agreement," an administration official said Saturday. "That process has begun."

The statement rebuffs Republicans such as Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, who said early Saturday that the administration was being "disingenuous" and that the program wouldn't really go offline until next week.

Key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire on June 1, but White House officials have been warning that, without congressional action, the NSA would need to begin winding down its bulk collection of millions of phone records on May 22. That was the deadline set by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees the nation's intelligence programs.

The secretive court, which reauthorizes the phone data-collection every 90 days, told the administration it would need to file its new application by May 22.

"We did not file an application for reauthorization," the administration official confirmed.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest had warned Senate Republicans Friday that "to play chicken with [national security] is grossly irresponsible."

After the Senate failed to agree on legislation to renew the Patriot Act early Saturday, Senate Republican leaders said they would return on May 31 to try to hash out a last-minute deal.

Despite the White House and NSA warning that inaction would risk killing the program altogether, Burr, a fierce defender of NSA spying, said he believed it was merely a bluff.

Speaking to reporters on his way out of the Capitol, Burr said NSA lawyers had assured his staff earlier in the day that the real shutdown would not begin until 4 p.m. on May 31. "The database doesn't go poof and go away," he said.

Asked whether he believed the NSA was lying to the public about an earlier shutdown, Burr said, "I think it's disingenuous, but they don't work for me, they work for the president."

"And the White House has been very specific that they wanted this bill passed," the North Carolina Republican continued. "This was the most significant lobby on a piece of legislation in the six years I've seen the Obama administration."

The House already passed the USA Freedom Act, which would extend Patriot Act authorities but bar the NSA from indiscriminately collecting U.S. records in bulk. Instead, the agency would be able to ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for permission to obtain specific records from the phone companies.

Democrats and several Republicans pushed to pass the USA Freedom Act in the Senate. But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Burr, and other Republicans warned it would hamper national security.

The Senate voted 57-to-42 on the House bill shortly after midnight Saturday, but it was short of the 60 votes needed to overcome procedural hurdles. McConnell then offered a two-month extension of the Patriot Act without any changes, but it failed on a vote of 45-to-54.

Sens. Rand Paul, Ron Wyden, and Martin Heinrich then objected to extensions of even a few days. Out of options, McConnell said the Senate would return on May 31, and the senators left for their Memorial Day recess.

"This was an entirely avoidable scenario," said Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican who cosponsored the USA Freedom Act. "I think we should have put it on the floor earlier. It was a big mistake not to."

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.