President Obama extended the National Security Agency program until September by convincing a judge to reauthorize the existing program as his administration promises to work with Congress to pass legislation that would circumscribe the bulk collection of American phone records.
The request that the program be reauthorized was approved Thursday. “Given the importance of maintaining the capabilities of the Section 215 telephony metadata program, the government has sought a 90-day reauthorization of the existing program, as modified by the changes the president announced earlier this year,” a statement released by the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence revealed late Friday. ”Consistent with prior declassification decisions, in light of the significant and continuing public interest in the telephony metadata collection program, the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, has declassified the fact that the government’s application to renew the program was approved yesterday by the FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court]. The order issued yesterday expires on Sept. 12, 2014. The Administration is undertaking a declassification review of this most recent court order and an accompanying memorandum opinion for publication.”
Obama promised to change the program after the Edward Snowden leaks revealed that the govenment could order a phone company to hand over phone records in bulk.
“The program does not involve the NSA examining the phone records of ordinary Americans,” the president said in January. “Having said that, I believe critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives, and open the door to more intrusive bulk collection programs in the future.”
Obama supports the House-passed USA Freedom Act, an NSA-reform bill written by Republican Patriot Act author Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, but the Senate hasn’t heard the bill yet.
“We’re doing something unnecessary and unpredictable here, which might make the public feel better, but would not be good for national security, which is what our job is,” Senator Jay Rockefeller (D., W.Va.), a former Intelligence Committee chairman, said of the bill.
“We urge the Senate to swiftly consider it, and remain ready to work with Congress to clarify that the bill prohibits bulk collection as noted above, as necessary,” the statement from DOJ and DNI said of the USA Freedom Act.