The White House on Monday said a controversial program exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden that covertly collects masses of telephone data will end if Congress does not expressly reauthorize it.
The program — which secretly tracks when telephone calls are made, to whom and for how long — was introduced after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
It had been secret until Snowden, a National Security Agency contractor, revealed the government was asking companies to hand over the data on millions of people who were not under suspicion of doing anything wrong.
A rule that forms the legal basis for the program is due to end in June thanks to a sunset clause.
"If Section 215 sunsets, we will not continue the bulk telephony metadata program," said Ned Price, a National Security Council spokesman.
The White House called on Congress to enact legislation that would preserve "key intelligence tools" in the law.
"Allowing Section 215 to sunset would result in the loss, going forward, of a critical national security tool that is used in a variety of additional contexts that do not involve the collection of bulk data," said Price.