Obama administration sees unconventional legal circumstance as means to temporarily reinstate bulk collection using same law that banned practice.
In protest of the NSA’s sweeping program to collect US citizens’ telephone metadata, Senator Rand Paul blocked an extension of some parts of the USA Patriot Act. (AP Photo)
The Obama administration intends to use part of a law banning the bulk collection of US phone records to temporarily restart the bulk collection of US phone records.
US officials confirmed to the Guardian that in the coming days they will ask a secret surveillance court to revive the program – deemed illegal by a federal appeals court – all in the name of “transitioning” the domestic surveillance effort to the telephone companies that generate the so-called “call detail records” the government seeks to access.
The unconventional and unexpected legal circumstance depends on a section of the USA Freedom Act, which Obama signed into law on Tuesday, that provides a six-month grace period to prepare the surveillance and legal bureaucracies for a world in which the National Security Agency is no longer the repository of bulk US phone metadata.
During that time, the act’s ban on bulk collection will not yet take effect.
But the NSA stopped its 14-year-old collection of US phone records at 8pm ET on Sunday, when provisions of the Patriot Act that authorized it until that point lapsed. The government will argue it needs to restart the program in order to end it.
US officials did not say if the secret Fisa court will hear arguments from the newly established “amicus”, who will be empowered by the Freedom Act to contest the government’s contentions before the previously non-adversarial court. The Freedom Act permits the amicus to argue before the court in novel circumstances.
“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,” Marc Raimondi, the Justice Department’s national security spokesman, told the Guardian on Wednesday.
One of the leading congressional advocates for surveillance reform, Senator Ron Wyden, warned the Obama administration not to restart a program now roundly rejected by Congress and repudiated by a federal appeals court as illegal.
Read more at: The Gaurdian