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Obama: 'Senators blocking US surveillance act amendments'

Washington warns surveillance powers enacted to prevent an attack on American could lapse at the stroke of midnight on Sunday if a group of senators continue to block the national security legislation reform bill.

US President Barack Obama said Friday he had told Republican leader Mitch McConnell and other senators he expects them to act quickly on a bill already approved by the House of Representatives that would renew specific powers and change the way bulk telephone data is collected.

Without a decision by midnight Sunday, key tools needed to grant law enforcement officials to pursue and investigate suspected terrorists will expire.

“I don't want us to be in a situation in which for a certain period of time, those authorities go away and suddenly we're dark and heaven forbid we've got a problem,” Obama told journalists Friday.

McConnell has called senators back to Washington for a rare Sunday session to handle the cessation of key three provisions of the Patriot Act.

One clause up for renewal is Section 215 which is relied upon to justify the National Security Agency gathering records from billions of US citizens telephone calls.

Obama argues the amendments to the existing Patriot Act would provide greater civil liability protections while retaining essential legislative enforcement tools.

Late last week the Senate failed to advance the Freedom Act by a mere three votes. The act would see an end to the mass collection of telephone records and instead impose a more targeted system for retrieving information.

The collection of data by the NSA has concerned privacy advocates since it was exposed by former contractor Edward Snowden two years ago.

Access to congressional office websites was blocked by online activists on Friday to protest the Patriot Act.

Republicans, which control both the Senate and House of Representatives, have been unable to reach an agreement as to how to best deal with the legislations expiration.

jlw/jil (Reuters, AP)

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