World Bulletin / News Desk
At 3:59 p.m. EDT on Sunday, the National Security Agency and telecommunications companies will begin mothballing a once-secret system that collected Americans' bulk telephone records, shutting down computers and sealing off warehouses of digital data.
If the U.S. Congress fails to act, key provisions of the USA Patriot Act will lapse in a watershed moment in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, era. Intrusive government powers, created and wielded in the name of preventing another mass-casualty terrorist attack, would be at least partly scaled back, proponents and critics of the surveillance say.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, for instance, will no longer be able to employ "roving wiretaps" aimed at terrorism suspects who use multiple disposable cell phones, and will have more difficulty seizing such suspects' and their associates' personal and business records.
"We're past the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack. And we can look at these issues more calmly," said Peter Swire, who served on a review panel appointed by President Barack Obama after former contractor Edward Snowden's 2013 revelations of vast NSA surveillance.
With the clock ticking, a coalition of Senate Republican libertarians and security hawks has blocked action on new legislation known as the USA Freedom Act that would reform the bulk telephone data program but not kill it.
Libertarians want the program ended altogether, while the hawks argue it should be maintained as it is now.
Currently, telecom providers are legally required to send phone records to the government. The USA Freedom Act would require private firms to hold the data, which the NSA could search with court authorization.
The U.S. Senate is scheduled to hold a special session to consider the legislation at 4 p.m. (2000 GMT) on Sunday - just as security officials say they have to begin shutting the NSA program down to meet a midnight deadline. The USA Freedom Act already has passed the House of Representatives and has Obama's strong support.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Mayıs 2015, 11:58