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Pro-NSA Senator: Surveillance Reform Is 'Resounding Victory' for Edward Snowden

The Senate finally passed an NSA reform bill.

by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai
Jun 2 2015, 8:39pm

Image: LASZLO ILYES/Flickr

On Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. Senate voted to pass the USA Freedom Act, a surveillance reform bill that limits some NSA spy powers, while leaving others intact.

The bill, which was overwhelmingly passed by the House with a 338 to 88 vote on May 13, formally ends the NSA's controversial bulk telephone metadata program, which allows the spy agency to collect virtually all Americans' phone records from telephone companies every three months. This was the first top secret program to be revealed by Edward Snowden's leaked documents.

The bill also restores portions of the Patriot Act that expired on Sunday night.

The Senate voted 67 to 32 to pass the House bill, after three amendments proposed by Mitch McConnell were all voted down. His proposals had the goal of preserving, at least temporarily, the NSA's bulk telephone metadata program, and compelled telephone companies to notify the government if they were going to change their data retention policies.

On the Senate floor, McConnell, who previously called for Snowden to be prosecuted "to fullest extent of the law," described the USA Freedom Act a "resounding victory for Edward Snowden" and America's enemies.

The USA Freedom Act is a "resounding victory for Edward Snowden" and America's enemies.

Privacy and civil liberties advocates, on the other hand, applauded the Senate's vote.

"It is monumental that Congress has finally acted to constrain overreaching surveillance agencies. While we are disappointed that stronger reforms weren't included in this package, the USA FREEDOM Act sends a message: unlawful, unaccountable, unacceptable surveillance must end now," Amie Stepanovich, the U.S. Policy Manager at human rights organization Access said in a statement.

The bill will become law as soon as President Barack Obama's signs it, something that might happen as soon as Tuesday evening. Obama previously said he supported the bill passed by the House, and even lobbied the Senate to pass it on Saturday, before the Patriot Act expired.