In March last year, President Barack Obama proposed an end to the U.S. government’s bulk collection of telephone metadata.
On Friday the US Senate controlled by the Republican Party blocked a House bill that would have ended bulk collection of domestic phone records by the National Security Agency (NSA).
It also failed to authorize a temporary extension of the current legislation. Senators are to meet again on 31 May – a day before the bill is due to expire. It also would extend two other expiring surveillance provisions used frequently by the FBI.
The vote was 57-42, short of the 60-vote threshold to move ahead. It leaves the fate of key provisions of the Patriot Act in doubt with a June 1 deadline less than two weeks away.
A US appeals court has already ruled the bulk collection illegal.
As part of the spy program known as PRISM, the NSA tracked private American citizens’ phone calls, emails, and spied on allied countries and foreign companies alike. Among individuals targeted was German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The White House has pressed the Senate to back the a bill passed by the House of Representatives – the Freedom Act – which would end bulk collection of domestic phone records. These records would remain with telephone companies subject to a case-by-case review.
The government’s surveillance program was leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in June 2013 caused an international outcry, despite US administrations insisting the program has been fully authorized.