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News Link • Government

NSA surveillance debate gives rise to bipartisan civil liberties coalition

•, By Sara Sorcher

When the clock struck midnight on June 1, the National Security Agency's sweeping call records surveillance program ended.

The expiration was a major loss for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. He wanted the Patriot Act's Section 215 that authorized the spying extended without any change. But it was a coup for Senator McConnell's fellow Republican senator from Kentucky. Sen. Rand Paul successfully stood in the way of renewing the bulk collection that vacuumed up Americans' call data, clearing the way for Congress to pass a landmark surveillance reform bill instead.

While the fight over Section 215 aired deep divisions in Congress over surveillance practices, behind the scenes, an unusual alliance that brought together far-left Democrats and conservative Republicans had been fighting hard against a clean reauthorization of the Patriot Act and in favor of surveillance reforms. Now, that coalition is celebrating the Patriot Act's brief expiration as its first major victory – in what the group pledges will be a much longer fight to protect civil liberties in the face of what it considers to be excessive government surveillance.