NSA loses power to collect phone records as parts of Patriot Act expire

The NSA has temporarily lost its power to collect the phone records of millions of Americans after the US Senate failed to meet a midnight deadline for re-authorising the surveillance programme.

A deadlock between Republicans in Congress meant that parts of the Patriot Act, the sweeping counter-terror legislation rushed in after September 11th, were allowed to lapse.

The NSA’s authorities are likely to be restored by a slightly reformed law later this week but US officials warned that even a temporary lapse in spying capabilities could be dangerous.