With only hours until the June 1 midnight deadline, the US Senate has failed to reach a deal that would prevent key counter terror provisions from expiring.
The USA Freedom Act, which has already passed the House, would end the National Security Agency's controversial bulk collection of phone metadata.
Republican Senator Rand Paul blocked the chamber from advancing a solution. The 2016 presidential candidate today said that the Patriot Act will expire tonight, after hours of debate on how to get a reform bill across the finish line that would have preserved important national security provisions.
With the Senate yet to act on protecting or reforming critical counter terror elements, including the telephone metadata program, as well as provisions that allow roving wiretaps on terror suspects and lone-wolf tracking, a rare Sunday session to find solutions was called -- however no resolution was found.
While the Freedom Act advanced in the Senate on a vote of 77 to 17, Paul -- who wants the entire bulk data provision scrapped and does not support the reform bill -- made clear he would block any further advancement of the measure on Sunday, or any extension of the Patriot Act.
The Freedom Act will not have any effect on the controversial PRISM program, which is said to tap data directly from various Silicon Valley companies -- including email services, social networks, and voice providers. The bill does not address in any capacity the other legal authorities the NSA uses, notably Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which permits the NSA to collect, without a warrant, Americans' international calls and emails. It also won't address Executive Order 12333, which one former NSA whistleblower called a "direct threat" to Americans' privacy.
With little standing in the way of the NSA continuing to use the phone records program to conduct domestic surveillance after June 1, all investigations of phone records under Section 215 of the law will not stop immediately, with a clause in the Patriot Act allowing the NSA to continue investigations it has already started.
Senators and senior aides have agreeing that this lapse may only be temporary, and the chamber is expected to vote on final passage of the reform bill by Tuesday or Wednesday.