NSA authorization to collect bulk phone data extended to June 1

The approval will be the last before the relevant statute in the Patriot Act comes up for renewal

A U.S. secret court has extended until June 1 the controversial bulk collection of private phone records of Americans by the National Security Agency.

The government said it had asked for reauthorization of the program as reform legislation, called the USA Freedom Act, was stalled in Congress. The bill would require telecommunications companies rather than the NSA to hold the bulk data, besides placing restrictions on the search terms used to retrieve the records.

An added urgency for Congress to act comes from the upcoming expiry on June 1 of the relevant part of the Patriot Act that provides the legal framework for the bulk data collections. Under a so-called "sunset" clause, the provision will lapse unless it is reauthorized in some form or the other by legislation.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which relates to business records, was used by the government to vacuum telephone metadata from customers of Verizon, according to revelations in 2013 by former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden. The section comes bundled with "gag orders" that prohibit service providers from making such information demands public.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had previously extended in December the authorization for the program by 90 days after the USA Freedom Act, backed by the administration of President Barack Obama, failed to pass in the Senate. A version of the bill had passed the House of Representatives.

The government has now sought renewal of the current program up to June 1 in order to align its expiry date with the sunset on the same day of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, according to a joint statement by the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Friday.

In March last year, as part of his reform program for the NSA, Obama had proposed that the data should remain with the telephone companies, and government would have access to that data only through individual court orders. The president, however, said there was need for new legislation to put these changes into effect.

With Section 215 and two other key rules set to lapse on June 1, Congress "has a limited window" before the sunset to enact new legislation "that would implement the President's proposed path forward for the telephony metadata program, while preserving key intelligence authorities," according to a statement by the White House press secretary.

A number of civil rights and privacy groups have asked Congress to oppose reauthorization of Section 215, one of several provisions in U.S. law that have provided the legal backing for NSA surveillance of people both in the country and abroad. The sunset of section 215 may not end bulk records collection, particularly of investigations that started before the expiry, according to some interpretations. Government could also use other statutes for domestic bulk data collection.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags securityprivacyU.S. National Security AgencyForeign Intelligence Surveillance Court

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >

Mobile

Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >

Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >

Exec

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?