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The author of the Patriot Act said Thursday that a secret program under which the Obama administration was collecting phone records from millions of Americans is “excessive” and beyond the scope of the law.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who wrote the 2001 law, was among a host of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who raised alarm over the practice.

The Guardian newspaper first reported the National Security Agency had been collecting records under a court order from millions of Verizon customers in the U.S. Defenders of the program tried to ease the furor by assuring the public this is “nothing new” — and in fact has been going on for seven years. But the acknowledgement that the program is long running only fueled the outrage from civil liberties groups and lawmakers who described it as a blatant overreach.