The National Security Agency's authority to collect troves of bulk telephone metadata under the post-Sept. 11 USA Patriot Act expired at midnight Monday after Republican senators were unable to make a deal.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sought a two-week extension Sunday of two less controversial provisions of the Patriot Act, but that effort was blocked by Sen. Rand Paul, his fellow Kentucky Republican who is running for president partly on his strong objections to the surveillance programs.
"Tonight we stopped the illegal NSA bulk data collection," Rand said in a statement. "This is a victory no matter how you look at it. It might be short lived, but I hope that it provides a road for a robust debate, which will strengthen our intelligence community, while also respecting our Constitution."
The provisions of the Patriot Act that expired are:
Section 215, which authorized the NSA's bulk collection of telephone metadata. Metadata record who called whom when, but not what was said.
A "lone wolf" provision that gave intelligence agencies powers to follow terrorists who may not be affiliated with a terrorist group.
Roving wiretaps, which gave intelligence agencies the ability to monitor someone who may use a number of different telephone lines to evade detection.
Fellow Republicans, particularly Sen. John McCain of Arizona, denounced Paul, accusing him pf playing politics with the nation's safety. McCain said Paul was placing "a higher priority on his fundraising and his ambitions than on the security of the nation."