Secret court will let NSA do mass surveillance for another six months

Congress allowed Section 215 of the Patriot Act to sunset in June, terminating one of the absurd legal justifications for one of the NSA's domestic mass surveillance programs.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court decided to allow this under the USA Freedom Act, which passed the day after the sunset of 215.

In setting aside an appellate court's ruling that the program was illegal, the FISA Court ruled that "Congress deliberately carved out a 180-day period following the date of enactment in which such collection was specially authorized. For this reason, the Court approves the application (PDF) in this case."

The government urged the FISA Court not to acquiesce to a federal appellate court's May decision that declared illegal the collection of metadata from every call in and out of the United States. That court had ruled that Congress did not clearly authorize the spying. The Justice Department also told the secret court that the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals' decisions "do not constitute controlling precedent for this Court."

The FISA Court, which has approved the snooping program 49 times in three-month intervals, agreed with the Obama administration and said it "respectfully disagrees with that court's analysis, especially in view of the intervening inaction of the USA Freedom Act." The court said that Congress' approval of the USA Freedom Act was evidence that Congress wanted the bulk collection to continue for six more months.

Secret US court allows resumption of bulk phone metadata spying [David Kravets/Ars Technica]

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