Questions and answers about newly approved USA Freedom Act

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has signed into law the USA Freedom Act, which extends three expiring surveillance provisions of the 9/11-era USA Patriot Act. It also overhauls the most controversial provision, which had been interpreted to allow bulk collection of U.S. phone records by the National Security Agency.

Questions and answers about the bill the Senate passed on Tuesday and the House approved earlier:

Q: What happens with the phone records collection?

A: It will resume for six months, provided that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders phone companies to turn over the records and that no court stops it under various pending lawsuits. During that period, the NSA will seek to work with providers to come up with a way to quickly query their records against known terrorist phone numbers, pursuant to a court order. It will be able to collect data for all the numbers in contact with the suspect number, and all the numbers in contact with those numbers. So the NSA will still be rooting around in Americans' phone records, but it won't be collecting all of them.

Q: What about the American calling records the NSA has been collecting for years?

A: Obama administration officials have not said what they will do with those and whether they will continue to search them.

Q: What about the other surveillance provisions that expired?

A: The roving wiretap provision, which allows the FBI to eavesdrop on espionage and terror suspects who discard cell phones frequently, will go back into effect, as will the lone-wolf provision, which has never been used. The FBI will still be able to use Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect a variety of business records in national security investigations. But the new law requires the government to limit the scope of its collection, prohibiting it from grabbing, for example, all information relating to a particular service provider or area code.

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Questions and answers about newly approved USA Freedom Act
President Barack Obama speaks to members of the media during his meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Tuesday, May 26, 2015, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Obama began with commenting on flooding in Texas and calling on Senate to act on USA Freedom Act. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 02: Sen. Patrick Leahy (L) (D-VT) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) leave the Senate floor after passage of the USA Freedom Act June 2, 2015 in Washington, DC. The legislation will replace the recently expired Patriot Act and passed the Senate by a vote of 67-32. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Joyce Barr (L), chief FOIA officer for the State Department, Melanie Anne Pustay (2L), director of the Office of Information Policy at the Justice Department, Karen Neuman (3L), chief FOIA officer at the Homeland Security Department, and Mary Howard (2R), director of the Internal Revenue Service's Privacy, Governmental Liaison and Disclosure Division, watch as Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-CA) (2R) and Brodi Fontenot, chief FOIA officer at the Treasury Department, shake hands during a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill June 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. The committee held the hearing about the Freedom of Information Act process. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 02: U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) talks with reporters about the passage of the USA FREEDOM Act at the U.S. Capitol June 2, 2015 in Washington, DC. Co-sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee and Sen. Patrick Leahy, the legislation passed the Senate 67-32, matches the House version of the bill and will go to President Barack Obama for his signature. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 02: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) (L) tells House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) 'A bad bill is better than no bill at all,' after the final passage of the USA FREEDOM Act at the U.S. Capitol June 2, 2015 in Washington, DC. Reforming how the nation's spy agencies collects citizens' phone data, the legislation passed the Senate 67-32, matching the House version of the bill and going to President Barack Obama for his signature. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 02: Sen. John Thune (R-SD) (C) talks with reporters after the final passage of the USA FREEDOM Act at the U.S. Capitol June 2, 2015 in Washington, DC. Reforming how the nation's spy agencies collects citizens' phone data, the legislation passed the Senate 67-32, matching the House version of the bill and going to President Barack Obama for his signature. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 01: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) talks with U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) (L) in between television interviews in the Russell Senate Office Building rotunda on Capitol Hill June 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. In protest of the National Security Agency's sweeping program to collect U.S. citizens' telephone metadata, Paul blocked an extension of some parts of the USA PATRIOT Act, allowing them to lapse at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The Senate will continue to work to restore the lapsed authorities by amending a House version of the bill and getting it to President Obama later this week. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 01: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) does a live interview with FOX News in the Russell Senate Office Building rotunda on Capitol Hill June 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. In protest of the National Security Agency's sweeping program to collect U.S. citizens' telephone metadata, Paul blocked an extension of some parts of the USA PATRIOT Act, allowing them to lapse at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The Senate will continue to work to restore the lapsed authorities by amending a House version of the bill and getting it to President Obama later this week. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
White House press secretary Josh Earnest speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 2, 2015. Earnest discussed the NSA phone collection bill, US-led coalition's IS group strategy, and Bruce Jenner's transition to Caitlyn Jenner, and other topics. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 31: The U.S. Capitol is illuminated at dusk, May 31, 2015 in Washington, DC. The National Security Agency's authority to collect bulk telephone data is set to expire June 1, unless the Senate can come to an agreement to extend the surveillance programs. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 31: (L - R) Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) listens as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to reporters after exiting the Senate chamber, on Capitol Hill, May 31, 2015 in Washington, DC. The National Security Agency's authority to collect bulk telephone data is set to expire June 1, unless the Senate can come to an agreement to extend the surveillance programs. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 31: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks to the Senate floor on Capitol Hill, May 31, 2015 in Washington, DC. The National Security Agency's authority to collect bulk telephone data is set to expire June 1, unless the Senate can come to an agreement to extend the surveillance programs. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 31: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) talks with reporters on his way to the Senate floor on Capitol Hill, May 31, 2015 in Washington, DC. The National Security Agency's authority to collect bulk telephone data is set to expire June 1, unless the Senate can come to an agreement to extend the surveillance programs. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama meets with Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Friday, May 29, 2015. The said a "handful of senators" are the only thing standing in the way of an extension of key Patriot Act provisions before they expire at midnight Sunday. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama speaks to media as he meets with Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Friday, May 29, 2015. The president said a "handful of senators" are the only thing standing in the way of an extension of key Patriot Act provisions before they expire at midnight Sunday. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 29: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) talks to members of the news media after meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the Oval Office at the White House May 29, 2015 in Washington, DC. Calling it an essential piece of legislation for fighting terrorism, Obama demanded that the U.S. Senate pass the USA Freedom Act, a piece of legislation that would end bulk collection of Americans' metadata, improve the FISA court and other security reforms. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 31: Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) talks to reporters after leaving the Senate floor on Capitol Hill, May 31, 2015 in Washington, DC. The National Security Agency's authority to collect bulk telephone data is set to expire June 1, unless the Senate can come to an agreement to extend the surveillance programs. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 31: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) gets into an elevator after leaving the Senate floor on Capitol Hill, May 31, 2015 in Washington, DC. The National Security Agency's authority to collect bulk telephone data is set to expire June 1, unless the Senate can come to an agreement to extend the surveillance programs. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 19: Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) talks to reporters after the weekly Senate GOP policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol May 19, 2015 in Washington, DC. Although he does not support the House version of the PATRIOT Act reauthorization, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the Senate would go forward with a vote on the legislation that would eliminate the bulk data collection programs, which were exposed by Edward Snowden. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
In this image from Senate video, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and a Republican presidential contender, speaks on the floor of the U.S. Senate Wednesday afternoon, May 20, 2015, at the Capitol in Washington, during a long speech opposing renewal of the Patriot Act. Paul claimed he was filibustering, but under the Senate rules, he wasn’t. (Senate TV via AP)
FILE - In this May 19, 2015 file photo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. pauses during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 19, 2015. Key Patriot Act anti-terror provisions, including bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, expire at midnight unless senators come up with an 11th hour deal in an extraordinary Sunday afternoon session. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
FILE - In this April 29, 2015 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks at the National Press Club in Washington. Republican senators eyeing the presidency split over the renewal of the Patriot Act surveillance law, with civil libertarians at odds with traditional defense hawks who back tough spying powers in the fight against terrorism. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)
FILE - In this May 16, 2015 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul speaks in Des Moines, Iowa. Paul vowed on Monday to “everything possible” to block renewal of the terrorism-era Patriot Act, but the Republican presidential hopeful conceded it may not be enough. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
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Q: What else will change under the USA Freedom Act?

A: The new law gives private companies more leeway to publicly report information about the number of national security surveillance demands they receive. And it requires declassification of FISA Court opinions containing significant legal decisions, or a summary if declassification is not possible. That is designed to prevent secret interpretations such as the one that allowed bulk collection of U.S. phone records.

Q: Does this legislation address the concerns raised by the disclosures of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden?

A: It addresses the most controversial program he revealed, the domestic phone records collection. But it does nothing to affect another major Snowden revelation: the NSA's collection of foreign Internet content from U.S. tech companies, a program that sweeps up lots of American communications. And it doesn't address the bulk of Snowden disclosures about foreign intelligence gathering and the NSA's attempts to exploit technology, such as encryption, for the benefit of U.S. intelligence.

Q: Who are the political winners and losers coming out of this legislative fight?

A: Winners include Obama, who proposed this idea more than a year ago to assuage public concerns about surveillance, and congressional Democrats, who backed it. Also coming out ahead are libertarian Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a presidential candidate who used Senate rules to box in his own party's leaders.

The biggest loser by any measure is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who opposed the USA Freedom Act and thought he could force the House to accept a last-minute extension of current law. But because of Paul and others, McConnell couldn't make that happen. He then saw his proposed changes to the USA Freedom Act defeated.


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