After the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in May that the government’s bulk data collection of phone meta-information was not authorized by the USA Patriot Act, Congress passed replacement legislation with the USA Freedom Act.
The new bill granted the government a transition period of six months to continue to collect all American’s call records before a new, narrower method of tracking foreign enemies was implemented.
The 180-day transition period was challenged in Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which the presiding judge found in favor of the federal government on Monday.
“Second Circuit rulings are not binding on the FISC”, wrote Judge Mossman, “and this court respectfully disagrees with that court’s analysis, especially in view of the intervening enactment of the USA Freedom Act.”
The FISA Court’s ruling basically over-turns the 2nd Appeals Court decision, giving the government the legal authority to again collect individual phone records en masse.
The Department of Justice was ecstatic about the news that they could again track potential terrorists without resistance now that bulk data collection continues.
“We agree with the Court’s conclusion that the program is lawful . . . to continue the existing collection program until the new mechanism of obtaining call detail records is implemented”, said a Justice Dept. spokesman.
After the six month “transition period”, the Freedom Act, signed into law on June 2, requires phone companies to provide intelligence agencies such as the NSA with meta-data which includes time, length, and number dialed, by request only.
Until the end of November however, telecommunication carriers will still be forced to hand over all of their customers’ meta-data to the government wholesale.