The U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA court), which supervises the activity of the National Security Agency and grants surveillance warrants against international spies, ruled on Monday that the agency may resume its bulk telephone data collection activities.
Yet the American Civil Liberties Union stepped in and filed a complaint with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which had previously decided that the program was unlawful, and requested an injunction.
The NSA program was due on June 1, but the Congress revived it a day later by passing the USA Freedom bill. The new law stated that bulk collection of phone record could not be resumed until six months have passed.
The six-month rest was necessary to allow the NSA switch to a different type of surveillance program – one in which phone records are kept by phone companies but federal agents have access to them.
Bulk collection of phone data only involves keeping track of phone numbers and call duration with no info on the content of conversations, officials say.
But in May, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the NSA had no authorization to collect bulk phone data of all U.S. residents as Edward Snowden’s leaks had shown. So, allowing the agency to resume operations during the 6-month period was illegal in the appeals court’s view.
On June 2, the Obama administration expressed its intention of resuming the program for six months, but a group of conservatives called FreedomWorks stepped in and filed a motion with the FISA court stating that there was no legal basis for the program to resume over the course of the six months.
Nevertheless, Judge Michael W. Mosman rejected the motion Tuesday and ruled that Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit wrongfully ruled that there was no authorization for bulk phone data collection in the law.
In a 26-page opinion, FISA court argued that Second Circuit decisions are no binding. But since the Second Circuit court didn’t issue an injunction to halt the operations out of precaution, the conservatives that challenged the program in court said Tuesday that they would seek one.
“Neither the statute nor the Constitution permits the government to subject millions of innocent people to this kind of intrusive surveillance,”
an attorney speaking on behalf of the group said.
The attorney also said that FreedomWorks will also request from the NSA to purge the data collected so far.
FISA court rulings are subjected to review at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, while the latter court and Second circuit can settle their conflicting rulings at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Image Source: France24
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