Late on Sunday, a debate in the Senate pushed past its midnight deadline and failed to extend certain Patriot Act provisions, following a clash within the Republican party. Three provisions of the Patriot Act expired, including the NSA's bulk data collection program, part of the legislation's highly controversial Section 215.
Lesser-known powers of the section allowed the CIA to monitor and collect financial records, such as wire transfers, to expose terrorist networks. The FBI, however, has used it to seize corporations' Internet business records.
The "lone wolf" provision
Also newly expired, this provision of the law allowed U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies to use national security tools to target suspected terrorists acting without any direct link to terrorist groups like ISIS or rogue nations.
American citizens were specifically exempt from this provision; the White House said that it has never actually been used.
The "roving wiretap" provision
This provision, which required a federal court's approval, allowed government agencies to track individuals, rather than specific communication devices. It made it easier for officials to monitor people who may use different phone lines to evade detection.
With its expiration, federal officials will now require individual warrants for each new device.
In investigations that the FBI and CIA began conducting before its June 1 expiration date, Section 215 and roving wiretaps are allowed to continue being used.
The expiration of part of the Patriot Act is largely credited to GOP presidential contender Sen. Rand Paul, who last week staged a dramatic Senate filibuster with other senators critical of the NSA's spying programs.
Those supporting the extension of the provisions claim that its expiration would leave the country less able to protect itself from terrorism. Its opponents, however, say that fears over national security should not trump civil liberties and privacy concerns.
An alternative to the expired provisions could be the USA Freedom Act, which now requires passage through the Senate after overwhelming support in the House. It would prohibit the NSA's bulk collection of phone records, but allow the agency to search phone companies' records.
[Cover image via iStock]