NSA reform: Bush-era powers expire as US prepares to roll back surveillance

Sweeping US surveillance powers, enjoyed by the National Security Agency since the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks, shut down at midnight after a dramatic Senate showdown in which even the NSA’s biggest supporters conceded that substantial reforms were inevitable.

Almost two years after the whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed to the Guardian that the Patriot Act was secretly being used to justify the collection of phone records from millions of Americans, critics of bulk surveillance went further than expected and forced the end of a range of other legal authorities covered by the Bush-era Patriot Act as well.

The expired provisions, subject to a “sunset” clause from the beginning of June onwards, are likely to be replaced later this week with new legislation – the USA Freedom Act – that permanently bans the NSA from collecting telephone records in bulk and introduces new transparency rules for other surveillance activities.