US court rubber-stamps dragnet metadata surveillance (again)

'We'll definitely stop soon,' spooks promise through gritted teeth

A US federal court has rubber stamped approval for the NSA to carry on with its controversial dragnet collection of Americans' phone records.

The decision by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to green-light the NSA's mass surveillance of US phone call metadata until 1 June comes a year after President Barack Obama promised to end the controversial programme.

Legal authority for the programme as determined by Congress is also set to expire at the start of June, the National Journal reports. President Obama promised to end bulk data collection as part of reforms to the NSA included in a major policy initiative announced in January 2014.

The programme has been extended five times in the 14 or so months since. White House officials have repeatedly said they want to be in step with Congress in ending the programme, whose intelligence value has long been criticised by privacy activists.

For example, some critics argue that there's no good evidence that the mass surveillance included in the NSA's "collect it all" approach is effective in identifying future terrorist attacks.

A blog post on IC on the Record gives the intel community and DoJ's take on FISA's decision to extend phone record surveillance. The attached statement talks about the need to develop a "new approach to match the capabilities and fill gaps that the Section 215 programme was designed to address without the government holding this metadata", as well as the legislative hurdles that need to be cleared to bring in reform.

"As the White House said, the Administration welcomes the opportunity to work with the new Congress to implement the changes the President has called for," says the joint statement by the DoJ and Office of the Director of National Intelligence. "Given that legislation has not yet been enacted, and given the importance of maintaining the capabilities of the telephony metadata programme, the government has sought a reauthorization of the existing programme, as modified by the changes the President directed in January."

Bootnote

The call record metadata collection is authorised under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.




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