Obama Signs Bill Reforming Surveillance Program
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – US President Barack Obama signed into law legislation passed by Congress earlier on Tuesday reforming a government surveillance program that swept up millions of Americans' telephone records.
Reversing security policy in place since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the bill ends a system exposed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The spy agency collected and searched records of phone calls purportedly looking for terrorism leads but was not allowed to listen to their content.
Passage of the USA Freedom Act, the result of an alliance between Senate Democrats and some of the chamber's most conservative Republicans, was a victory for Obama, a Democrat, and a setback for Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
After the Senate voted 67-32 on Tuesday to give final congressional approval to the bill, Obama used his Twitter account, @POTUS, to say he was glad it had passed. "I'll sign it as soon as I get it," the tweet said.
Before voting, senators defeated three amendments proposed by Republican leaders after they reversed themselves and ended efforts to block it. The House of Representatives passed the measure overwhelmingly last month.
In the end, 23 Senate Republicans voted for the Freedom Act, joining 196 who backed it in the House. In a rift between Republicans, who control both chambers, House leaders had warned that amendments proposed by McConnell would be a "challenge" for the House that could delay the bill.
A federal appeals court on May 7 ruled the collection of "metadata" illegal.
The new law would require companies such as Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc., to collect and store telephone records the same way that they do now for billing purposes.
But instead of routinely feeding US intelligence agencies such data, the companies would be required to turn it over only in response to a government request approved by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
The Freedom Act is the first major legislative reform of US surveillance since Snowden's revelations two years ago this month led to debate over how to balance Americans' distrust of intrusive government with fears of terrorist attacks.
Along with the phone records program, two other domestic surveillance programs authorized under the 2001 USA Patriot Act have been shut down since Sunday.