NSA spy powers enshrined in Patriot Act to expire at midnight EST

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Controversial provisions of the Patriot Act authorizing government surveillance programs have expired after the Senate failed to vote for extension.

Lawmakers have debated the possibility of extending the authority of Section 215, that authorizes bulk data collection, and other provisions in the extraordinary Sunday afternoon session. The debate started eight hours before the expiration deadline.

The sunsetting of the provisions is regarded as victory by those who were against government surveillance programs. The supporters of the Patriot Act, however, said that this legislation allowed intelligence agencies to prevent terror attacks.

The National Security Agency uses Section 215 of the Patriot Act as the basis for collecting phone records of Americans who are not necessarily under official investigation. The extent of the mass surveillance program was revealed nearly two years ago by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. It was also used to track financial data and to obtain companies’ internet business records.

The other provisions that were not extended included the “lone wolf” provision that allowed targeted surveillance of people suspected to be terrorists, but not part of any group. The ” roving wiretap” provision allowed the monitoring of a specific person, irrespective of the devices used.

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