US Court Renews NSA Phone Surveillance Program

A federal court renewed an order allowing the NSA to collect phone records for virtually all calls made within the United States by http://ultraculture.org

Last Friday, a United States federal court renewed an order that allows the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect phone records on nearly all calls made within the country.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) approved the Justice Department’s request for another 90-day extension of the NSA’s mass surveillance program, pushing the expiration date back to December 5. The NSA’s controversial program was first exposed last summer by Edward Snowden and is authorized under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

“Given that legislation has not yet been enacted, and given the importance of maintaining the capabilities of the Section 215 telephony metadata program, the government has sought a 90-day reauthorization of the existing program, as modified by the changes the president announced in January,” the Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a joint statement.

This extension is the third of its kind since January, when President Obama pledged to reform how the NSA spies on American citizens. Obama outlined a series of immediate steps that would be taken to reform government surveillance and enhance transparency, but noted he was waiting for Congress to deliver a him a bill to sign before ending the bulk collection of U.S. phone data.

But Capitol Hill has been slow on NSA reform this year. As a result the courts have been able to renew the collection of telephone metadata—phone numbers and time stamps of a call but not the actual content—in March, June and now September.

In July, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the USA Freedom Act, which would effectively end the government’s collection and storage of metadata. It would require that records be retained by phone companies, which intelligence agencies could obtain only after acquiring court approval.

“Congress must ensure that this is the last time the government requests and the court approves the bulk collection of Americans’ records,” Leahy said in a statement. “This announcement underscores, once again, that it is time for Congress to enact meaningful reforms to protect individual privacy.”

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Independent journalist and funder of We Are Change, a grassroots media outlet.

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