President signs USA Freedom Act, restoring most of expired Patriot Act

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WASHINGTON, DC – Uncle Sam is no longer playing Blindman’s Bluff with terrorists and suspected terrorists.

On a 67-32 vote Tuesday, the Senate passed the House’s USA Freedom Act bill, replacing the Patriot Act that expired Sunday, and renewing the ability of US intelligence agencies to use surveillance tools that had been in place since 2006.

But under the USA Freedom Act, the National Security Agency cannot collect telephone metadata from millions of Americans. That job goes to phone companies. The bill also requires the government to obtain a warrant to get specific phone metadata.

President Obama signed the bill Tuesday night after tweeting that he was “glad the Senate finally passed the USA Freedom Act,” adding that “it protects civil liberties and our national security.”

Some Republicans who voted for the bill, like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, think it didn’t go far enough. “There are a number of us who feel very strongly that this is a significant weakening of the tools that were put in place in the wake of 9/11 to protect the country."

Even though something may be better than nothing, nothing will be up and running for a few more days while folks sort out the legal and technical processes for the watchers and those who watch the watchers.