A federal court has revived the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, a program that lapsed earlier this month when sections of the Patriot Act briefly expired.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved a government request to renew the dragnet collection of U.S. phone metadata for an additional five months—a timeframe allowed under the Freedom Act, a newly enacted surveillance reform law that calls for an eventual end to the mass spying program exposed by Edward Snowden two years ago.
The Senate passed the Freedom Act days after allowing the June 1 expiration of the Patriot Act’s three spying provisions, including Section 215, which the NSA uses to justify its bulk collection. The court order renews the surveillance until November 29, 2015—six months after enactment of the reform law.
“This application presents the question whether the recently-enacted USA Freedom Act … ended the bulk collection of telephone metadata,” the order, issued Monday and obtained by National Journal, reads. “The short answer is yes. But in doing so, Congress deliberately carved out a 180-day period following the date of enactment in which such collection was specifically authorized. For this reason, the Court approves the application in this case.”
Such a transition period was baked into the Freedom Act to allow the NSA time to switch over to a more limited and targeted surveillance regime. Going forward after November, the law will allow the spy agency to request records from phone companies only on an as-needed basis after obtained approval from the FISA Court.
Acknowledging the unusual situation that finds the government again extending a controversial program Congress fought to dismantle, the Court began its opinion with a dose of French prose that translates to, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Full article: Court Revives Defunct NSA Mass Surveillance Program (Nextgov)