The Washington Post on how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved NSA to resume bulk telephone metadata collection for the next 180 days as authorized in the recently enacted USA Freedom Act:
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Monday ruled that the NSA could resume gathering millions of Americans’ phone metadata — call times, dates and durations — to scan for links to foreign terrorists.
But the resumption is good for only 180 days — or until Nov. 29, in compliance with the USA Freedom Act. That law, which President Obama signed June 2 after a contentious congressional debate, will end the government’s bulk collection of metadata. It provided, however, for a transition period to allow the NSA time to set up an alternative system in which the data is stored by the phone companies.
After the law took effect, the government immediately applied to the surveillance court to restart its collection. Because Congress passed the bill a day after the underlying statute authorizing the NSA program had expired, there was a question as to whether lawmakers had authorized the government’s temporary harvesting of phone records.
“In passing the USA Freedom Act, Congress clearly intended to end bulk data collection of business records and other tangible things,” Judge Michael W. Mosman wrote in his opinion. “But what it took away with one hand, it gave back — for a limited time — with the other. . . . It chose to allow a 180-day transitional period during which such [bulk] collection could continue.”
As intrusive as the metadata collection may be, this decision is no surprise. Anyone watching this play out should have known the court of appeals would allow this to continue.