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Surveillance Court OKs NSA Bulk Collection During Transition Period

“The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled late Monday that the National Security Agency may temporarily resume its once-secret program that systematically collects records of Americans’ domestic phone calls in bulk,” The New York Times reports.  

“The program lapsed on June 1, when a law on which it was based, Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, expired. Congress revived that provision on June 2 with a bill called the USA Freedom Act, which said the provision could not be used for bulk collection after six months. The six­-month period was intended to give intelligence agencies time to move to a new system in which the phone records — which include information like phone numbers and the duration of calls but not the contents of conversations — would stay in the hands of phone companies.”  

“But, complicating matters, in May the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, ruled in a lawsuit brought by the A.C.L.U. that Section 215 of the Patriot Act could not legitimately be interpreted as permitting bulk collection at all. Congress did not include language in the Freedom Act contradicting the Second Circuit ruling or authorizing bulk collection even for the six-­month transition. As a result, it was unclear whether the program had a lawful basis to resume in the interim.”  

“It remains unclear whether the Second Circuit still considers the surveillance program to be illegal during this six­month transition period. The basis for its ruling in May was that Congress had never intended for Section 215 to authorize bulk collection.”

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