US Senate fails to reach deal

The US Senate has failed to reach a deal on extending the controversial Patriot Act used by the National Security Agency (NSA) as a legal basis for spying on people.

 (L - R)  Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) listens as Senator Rand Paul speaks to reporters after exiting the Senate chamber, at the US Capitol, May 31, 2015 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

Republican Senator Rand Paul, who had said that he would force the expiration of the controversial law, blocked the chamber from advancing a solution.

"The Patriot Act will expire tonight," said the 2016 presidential candidate, after hours of fruitless debate.

The Senate convened a rare session on Sunday in a last-ditch attempt to extend key provisions of the USA Patriot Act, which would expire at midnight Sunday (0400 GMT Monday).

Signed into law by former President George W. Bush, USA PATRIOT Act is an Act of Congress that followed September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. Parts of it have been renewed under President Barack Obama.

The law allows the NSA to collect any telephone and business records relevant to a counterterrorism investigation.

The existence of the spying program was revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden back in 2013, prompting calls for reform.

A court has already ruled the practice illegal. But the new reform will not stop the collection of Americans’ phone data and instead will give the spying power to telecom companies.

The United States House of Representatives has already backed the bill, which now needs 60 votes to clear the Senate.

Obama had called on Congress to renew legislation which allows the NSA to continue its controversial phone records collection, saying even a temporary lapse in the NSA's authority could affect national security.

“This is a matter of national security,” Obama said on Saturday. “We shouldn’t surrender the tools that help keep us safe. It would be irresponsible. It would be reckless.”