By TONY ROMM and ALEX BYERS | 8/21/13 11:05 PM EDT

Congressional critics of government surveillance blasted the NSA and promised additional hearings after the Obama administration on Wednesday declassified documents that show thousands of Americans’ emails had been scooped up.

The unlawful collection, which the documents reflect ended in 2011, confirmed the worst fears of some lawmakers and civil liberties advocates — that the NSA’s ability to monitor foreigners’ Internet conversations had collided with the Constitution, threatened U.S. citizens and will require significant reforms.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who had long alluded to such abuses, stressed in a statement that the revelations were “overdue.” He added that the law itself is “insufficient to adequately protect the civil liberties and privacy rights of law-abiding Americans.”

“And while the NSA eventually made changes to its minimization procedures in response to this ruling,” Wyden continued, “the very collection it describes was a serious violation of the Fourth Amendment and demonstrates even more clearly the need to close the backdoor searches loophole that allows for the communications of Americans to be searched without a warrant if they are swept up under procedures that were intended to target foreigners.”

Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and top House Democrats said they too were displeased while Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the leader of the chamber’s Judiciary Committee, promised a hearing in the coming weeks. Beyond the Capitol, groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation stressed they — and the country — had been misled.

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