WASHINGTON, June 2 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed the USA Freedom Act, comprising reforms to the National Security Agency's spying program, including limitations on data collection.
"It's historical," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, one of the leading architects of the reform efforts. "It's the first major overhaul of government surveillance in decades."
After clearing the House last month with a vote of 338-88, the bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 67-32. Obama signed it into law Tuesday evening, ending the NSA's bulk collection of telephone data and instead requiring the agency to access databases kept by phone companies.
The vote comes two days after a rare Sunday session in which Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., used parliamentary maneuvering to allow three parts of the Patriot Act to expire at midnight, causing the NSA to temporarily cease its collection of phone data.
Passage of the legislation came after senators earlier Tuesday voted 83-14 to overcome a filibuster by Paul, a presidential candidate who has long opposed the NSA program, and to limit debate about the bill, thus rejecting three amendments proposed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C.
The USA Freedom Act forces the NSA to stop its collection of phone "metadata" -- which includes a phone call's length and the number called but not the content of the call. It also limits other types of data collection, adds transparency measures and includes an expert panel to give alternative viewpoints at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees intelligence activities but only hears the government's viewpoint, The Hill reported.
McConnell and Burr's amendments would have extended the six-month expiration date on the NSA's phone data collection to 12 months, reduced the authorities of the new expert panel and imposed fresh requirements about how telecom companies store phone records.
Just before the vote, McConnell said that he would oppose the bill because of security concerns relating to terrorism.
"Sixty-one percent say I'm not concerned about my privacy, I'm concerned about my security," Roll Call quoted McConnell as saying.