WASHINGTON - The US Senate is set to convene in a rare Sunday session in a last-ditch attempt to pass legislation to allow US spy agencies to continue to sweep up information on Americans' telephone calls and other business records.
Failure to pass such legislation would mean that key provisions of the USA Patriot Act would expire and, facing a midnight deadline, the National Security Agency would have to shut off a vast surveillance system.
The Patriot Act was signed into law by Republican President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and parts of it have been renewed under Democratic President Barack Obama.
But with the clock ticking on some sections of the act, efforts to renew them have stalled in the Senate, which also has failed to advance a compromise bill known as the USA Freedom Act that would reform the telephone data program. Libertarians want the program ended altogether, while security hawks want it extended, unchanged.
The Senate is scheduled to hold a special session to consider the legislation at 4 p.m. local time on Sunday, just as security officials say they have to begin shutting down the NSA program to meet the midnight deadline.