NSA Bulk Telephony Metadata Program Reupped Until Parts Of The Patriot Act Potentially Sunset

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In a post on its official Tumblr, the United States’ Office of the Director of National Intelligence noted that it sought and received a reauthorization of its telephony metadata program, authorized under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. The program collects metadata on phone calls, including those of United States citizens.

The reauthorization lasts until June 1, 2015.

Why that date? The NSA has your answer, ready-made:

The Government sought renewal of this authority to and including June 1, 2015 in order to align the expiration date of the requested order for this program with the June 1, 2015 sunset of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.

That is the reason I highlight the reauthorization — it’s the last freebie. Given that Section 215 is set to sunset, and will require an act of Congress to have its soul reborn, the intelligence community, and by extension the American government, is staring down the barrel of a tool that they might lose.

This is why privacy reform might not be utterly dead. Given that parts of the Patriot Act must be reauthorized, there will be debate. Heaven forfend, we may actually be able to improve the legal code. The government plans to release the “most recent order,” regarding the program, once it finishes a “declassification review.”

The Section 215-based program to collect the metadata of phone calls has been controversial. Calls for the program to end along with, if we may dream in the sun, a host of other NSA programs have been met with bureaucratic glaciation.

If Congress can’t find a way forward this summer, it might end a program with inaction that it failed to end with action, the same substance that granted it the opposite result the last time around.