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White House Will End Bulk Phone Spying If Congress Lets The Patriot Act Expire

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By Giuseppe Macri

The White House will not use a legal loophole to let the National Security Agency continue collecting the phone records of millions of Americans if Congress lets the Patriot Act expire in June.

Section 215, which authorizes the NSA to collect metadata on virtually all domestic landline phone calls, including numbers and call durations, will expire on June 1. Without a renewal by Congress, which lawmakers within and on both sides of the aisle are divided over, the agency will lose that authority.

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Earlier this week the White House said it will not use a legal loophole in the law that would allow records collection to continue for investigations launched prior to the expiration date that concern national security. (RELATED: This Legal Loophole Could Let NSA Spy On Americans After The Patriot Act Expires)

“If Section 215 (of the law which covers the collection) sunsets, we will not continue the bulk telephony metadata program,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement to Reuters.

“Allowing Section 215 to sunset would result in the loss, going forward, of a critical national security tool that is used in a variety of additional contexts that do not involve the collection of bulk data.”

Section 215 would have been reauthorized under a bill containing other NSA reforms that was defeated by Republicans in the Senate late last year, many of whom feared it went too far in restricting the agency. Republicans now in control of the chamber have yet to propose a plan of their own. (RELATED: Senate Sinks NSA Reform)

National Security Agency reform is also facing renewed discussion in the House, which passed a weaker version of the Senate bill last summer. Lawmakers in the lower chamber proposed a bipartisan bill to repeal the Patriot Act in its entirety Tuesday, which included privacy-focused reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the 2008 FISA Amendments Act. (RELATED: House Revives Bill To Repeal Patriot Act, Dismantle NSA Spying)

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