Republicans are in a state of disarray on surveillance reform, with Congress headed toward a May 31 deadline to extend or curtail some of the National Security Agency's key powers, Politico reports. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr want to reauthorize the bulk collection of phone records, the most controversial program revealed by Edward Snowden's leaks. Presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Rand Paul want to end it, as do many House Republicans. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, a key player, hasn't decided.
The split illustrates the persistent divisions between libertarian-leaning Republicans who see NSA spying as a threat to Americans' privacy and national security hawks who don't want to tamper with the U.S. intelligence apparatus. Even with the ticking clock, GOP members are far apart. It's the second effort to reform surveillance practices since Snowden's leaks revealed the vast nature of the NSA's operations. Key parts of the PATRIOT Act could expire, including the provision the government has used to justify bulk data collection. Tech companies have been pushing for changes and want more flexibility to disclose the government orders they receive.