NSA Spying Wins Another Rubber Stamp

Mass surveillance will continue for now, but is set to expire on June 1—unless Congress acts.

A sign stands outside the National Security Administration (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md., Thursday, June 6, 2013.
National Journal
Feb. 27, 2015, 12:38 p.m.

A fed­er­al court has again re­newed an or­der al­low­ing the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency to con­tin­ue its bulk col­lec­tion of Amer­ic­ans’ phone re­cords, a de­cision that comes more than a year after Pres­id­ent Obama pledged to end the con­tro­ver­sial pro­gram.

The For­eign In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Court ap­proved this week a gov­ern­ment re­quest to keep the NSA’s mass sur­veil­lance of U.S. phone metadata op­er­at­ing un­til June 1, co­in­cid­ing with when the leg­al au­thor­ity for the pro­gram is set to ex­pire in Con­gress.

The ex­ten­sion is the fifth of its kind since Obama said he would ef­fect­ively end the Snowden-ex­posed pro­gram as it cur­rently ex­ists dur­ing a ma­jor policy speech in Janu­ary 2014. Obama and seni­or ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have re­peatedly in­sisted that they will not act alone to end the pro­gram without Con­gress.

“While the ad­min­is­tra­tion waits for the Con­gress to act, it has con­tin­ued to op­er­ate the pro­gram with … im­port­ant modi­fic­a­tions in place,” White House press sec­ret­ary Josh Earn­est said in a state­ment re­leased late Fri­day.

More than a year’s worth of ef­forts to re­form the NSA stalled last year, as the Sen­ate came two votes short of ad­van­cing the USA Free­dom Act in Novem­ber. The meas­ure failed to over­come a fili­buster by Re­pub­lic­ans, many of whom warned any lim­it­a­tion im­posed on the NSA could bol­ster ter­ror­ist groups like the Is­lam­ic State.

It is widely ex­pec­ted that law­makers will re­in­tro­duce ver­sions of the Free­dom Act in the new Con­gress, but no bill has emerged so far. Core parts of the post-9/11 Pat­ri­ot Act will sun­set on June 1, in­clud­ing Sec­tion 215, which grants the NSA leg­al au­thor­ity to con­duct its con­tro­ver­sial drag­net sur­veil­lance pro­gram.

Amid the con­gres­sion­al in­ac­tion, the FISA Court has now re­newed the NSA’s most con­tro­ver­sial spy­ing pro­gram five times — in March, June, Septem­ber, Decem­ber and now Feb­ru­ary — since Obama de­livered his pledge to end it in its cur­rent form.

“Con­gress has a lim­ited win­dow be­fore the June 1 sun­set to en­act le­gis­la­tion that would im­ple­ment the Pres­id­ent’s pro­posed path for­ward for the tele­phony metadata pro­gram, while pre­serving key in­tel­li­gence au­thor­it­ies,” Earn­est said in his state­ment. “The ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to stand ready to work with the Con­gress on such le­gis­la­tion and would wel­come the op­por­tun­ity to do so.”

Some NSA crit­ics and even some law­makers, such as Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Demo­crat on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, have called for Obama to end the pro­gram uni­lat­er­ally.

The in­tel­li­gence com­munity, un­der Obama’s dir­ec­tion, has im­ple­men­ted some changes to how it stores and col­lects U.S. and for­eign com­mu­nic­a­tions data, but pri­vacy ad­voc­ates have re­peatedly in­sisted those tweaks are not enough.

It re­mains un­clear if there is a path for­ward for sub­stan­tial NSA re­form in Con­gress, leav­ing sur­veil­lance crit­ics to worry law­makers may ul­ti­mately pass a clean reau­thor­iz­a­tion of the Pat­ri­ot Act.

The gov­ern­ment is re­quired to seek reau­thor­iz­a­tion of its phone re­cords pro­gram every 90 days, though the most re­cent or­der sur­passes the 90-day lim­it by a few days in or­der to reach June 1.

What We're Following See More »
CURRENTLY DEPUTY SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION
Rosen will Replace Rosenstein at DOJ
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"A Justice Department official said Monday that [deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein] planned to step down in mid-March for reasons unconnected to McCabe’s allegations. The administration on Tuesday announced that Trump is nominating Jeffrey Rosen — the deputy secretary of transportation, who worked previously at Kirkland & Ellis, the firm where Barr also previously worked — to replace him."

Source:
WILL DEFINE LIMITS OF CLEAN WATER ACT
SCOTUS to Hear Major Water Case
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to decide whether the Clean Water Act can prevent sewage plants from putting waste water into the ground if it flows from there into a river, bay or the ocean. The case from Hawaii is an important test of the reach of the federal government’s anti-pollution authority."

Source:
PENTAGON WILL DRAFT LEGISLATION FOR CONGRESS
Trump Directs DoD to Launch Space Force
9 hours ago
THE LATEST

"President Donald Trump signed a directive on Tuesday that ordered the Department of Defense create a Space Force as a sixth military branch. Known as Space Policy Directive 4 (SPD-4), the directive orders the Pentagon draft legislation for Congress that would create the Space Force as a part of the U.S. Air Force. This would establish the first military branch in 72 years. The Air Force is the nation's youngest branch and was added shortly after World War II."

Source:
MATTHEW WHITAKER, THEN AG, REFUSED
Trump Tried to Put Ally in Charge of Investigation Targeting Him
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"As federal prosecutors in Manhattan gathered evidence late last year about President Trump’s role in silencing women with hush payments during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump called Matthew G. Whitaker, his newly installed attorney general, with a question. He asked whether Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, could be put in charge of the widening investigation, according to several American officials with direct knowledge of the call."

Source:
ON VERMONT RADIO
Bernie Sanders Declares Bid
19 hours ago
THE DETAILS
Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login