Court Rules NSA Bulk Data Collection Can Resume

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The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled late Monday that the NSA may temporarily resume its bulk data collection of Americans’ phone records.

The ruling revives the NSA program that was halted earlier this month when a certain provision of the Patriot Act expired June 1. The government had sought to reinstate the section by passing the USA Freedom Act on June 2, which curtailed the government’s surveillance capabilities as a whole but sought to reinstate bulk data collection for six months time.

FreedomWorks, a libertarian advocacy group, filed a motion in the surveillance court following President Obama’s signing of the bill earlier this month, saying that the government did not have legal authority to resume the government program for the 180-day period.

In a court opinion released Tuesday, surveillance court Judge Michael W. Mosman rejected FreedomWorks’ challenge to the bill.

Moreover, he seemed to acknowledge the peculiar nature of his court’s ruling, which allowed the government to again resume domestic spying, as he opened his court opinion with the phrase, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” translated as “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

The court opinion went on:

“This application presents the question whether the recently-enacted U.S.A. Freedom Act … ended the bulk collection of telephone metadata,” the order reads. “The short answer is yes. But in doing so, Congress deliberately carved out a 180-day period following the date of enactment in which such collection was specifically authorized. For this reason, the Court approves the application in this case.”

Senator Ron Wyden, who has voiced major opposition to government surveillance in Congress, released a statement Tuesday criticizing the extension of NSA bulk data collection by the surveillance court.

“I see no reason for the Executive Branch to restart bulk collection, even for a few months,” the Oregon Senator said. “This illegal dragnet surveillance violated Americans’ rights for fourteen years without making our country any safer. It is disappointing that the administration is seeking to resurrect this unnecessary and invasive program after it has already been shut down.”