Secret U.S. Court Extends NSA Authority to Collect Phone Metadata

By:  Brian Koenig
Secret U.S. Court Extends NSA Authority to Collect Phone Metadata

It was affirmed on Friday that the NSA will continue to collect phone records of millions of Americans.

A chief U.S. intelligence official affirmed Friday that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been granted authority to continue collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers. The verdict from the court, authorized by the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), renewed the controversial data-collection campaign that has posed serious threats to Americans’ right to privacy and, in turn, the U.S. Constitution.

In an action propelled by a disclosure in June of the NSA’s collection of Verizon metadata, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a statement asserting that the program has been renewed. The statement reads, in part:

On June 6, 2013, the Director of National Intelligence declassified certain information about this telephony metadata collection program in order to provide the public with a more thorough and balanced understanding of the program. Consistent with his prior declassification decision and in light of the significant and continuing public interest in the telephony metadata collection program, the DNI has decided to declassify and disclose publicly that the Government filed an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court seeking renewal of the authority to collect telephony metadata in bulk, and that the Court renewed that authority.

While the ODNI statement does not indicate a time period for the extension, nor does it specifically mention Verizon, it will likely renew the program for another three months, considering previous routine orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who has publicly defended the NSA spying program, noted that the Verizon phone surveillance has been active — and renewed every three months — for at least six years, and it has likely applied to other telecommunication companies as well.

The Obama administration has increasingly revealed the extent its secretive mass-communications surveillance since former NSA employee Edward Snowden exposed the scandal earlier this summer. In Snowden’s damning exposé, he described the NSA’s efforts to extract an array of communications data, including cellphone numbers and information about the length and time of phone calls.

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