Well, that didn’t take very long, did it?
Not more than 72-hours after the NSA’s controversial bulk phone records collection program was brought to an end on Sunday night, the Obama administration has confirmed it will seek to temporarily reinstate the operation through a provision found in the USA Freedom Act.
By exploiting a six-month transitional grace period afforded to the NSA in the freshly-passed Act, the administration says it will petition a secret surveillance court to revive the program while its data and repositories are prepped to transfer from the servers in Fort Meade to the hands of US telecoms.
Related: NSA surveillance operations come to screeching halt as Senate stalls on resolution
This time around however, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court will now have the right to simply deny the administration’s request, thanks to new powers afforded by the Freedom Act. This means if they refuse to hear the case, the bulk collections program would transfer immediately to the phone companies, and the administration will have no legal grounds to gift the NSA an extra half-year with its beloved metadata mining monster.
“We are taking the appropriate steps to obtain a court order reauthorizing the program. If such an order is granted, we’ll make an appropriate announcement at that time as we have with respect to past renewal applications,” said the Justice Department’s national security spokesman Marc Raimondi.
Though Obama publicly came out on Twitter in praise of the Freedom Act’s passage yesterday afternoon, the administration says the move to reboot the program under the NSA comes as a result of the Senate’s gridlock on Sunday, which caused the program to shut down immediately, rather than tapering off over the aforementioned six months as was envisioned by the bill’s original authors.
Regardless of what the FISA court eventually decides, both privacy advocates and lawmakers on the hill agree that the proceedings should at the very least be held in the public eye, and any reasoning behind the ruling made clear to American citizens in the spirit of transparency on the road ahead.
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- The NSA promises to delete its phone metadata early next year