By Randall Friedland

Yesterday, the USA Freedom Act (S. 2685), a bill aimed at curbing the National Security Agency’s (“NSA”) data collection practices, fell two votes short of the 60 votes necessary for cloture in the Senate.  The bill was largely blocked by Senate Republicans who expressed concern that the legislation would harm the government’s ability to fight terrorism.  Referring to the ongoing terrorist efforts in Iraq and Syria, Senator McConnell commented that it was “the worst possible time to be tying our hands behind our backs.”   This is a similar argument that was advanced by Michael Hayden (former director of the CIA and the NSA) and Michael Mukasey (former attorney general) in an op-ed published on Monday in advance of the vote.  Senator Leahy, the sponsor of the bill, expressed dismay over the block, stating that  “fomenting fear stifles serious debate and constructive solutions.”

This issue will not disappear for long, however, because the NSA’s data collection authority will expire on June 20 of next year if it is not reauthorized in some manner.  Notably, the USA Freedom Act has the support of the Obama administration and a coalition of technology companies including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo.