Obama Asks for 6 more Months of NSA Bulk Surveillance Collection

Monday, June 15, 2015
(graphic: ACLU)

It’s the oldest trick in the book—when Dad tells you no, ask Mom if you can do it. Now President Barack Obama is playing that game with the surveillance of Americans’ phone records.


The Obama administration, on the same day the USA Freedom Act became law on June 2, went to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA court) with a request (pdf) to continue sweeping up phone records during a six-month “transition” period before the Freedom Act provisions take effect.


The USA Freedom Act specifies that call records be maintained by the phone companies, and the government may access them only with a warrant from the FISA court. That’s evidently not good enough for the Obama administration.


The Justice Department asked the FISA court to ignore the decision in May by a federal appeals court in the case of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) vs. Clapper that said the National Security Agency overstepped its bounds in the bulk collection of phone data. “This Court may certainly consider ACLU v. Clapper as part of its evaluation of the Government’s application, but Second Circuit rulings do not constitute controlling precedent for this Court,” Assistant Attorney General John Carlin wrote in the request.


“The only federal appeals court to have considered this surveillance concluded, after very careful analysis, that it’s unlawful. It’s disturbing and disappointing that the government is proposing to continue it,” Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, told The Guardian.


The Justice Department’s request was countered on June 3 by the conservative group FreedomWorks. They filed a motion asking that the administration’s request be denied on the basis of Fourth Amendment grounds of improper search and seizure, according to The Guardian. FISA judge Michael Moseman gave the Justice Department until Friday to respond, but there’s no word yet on what the response was.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Obama Lawyers Asked Secret Court to Ignore Public Court’s Decision On Spying (by Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian)

Justice Department Plotting to Resume NSA Bulk Phone Records Collection (by David Kravets, ArsTechnica)

In Re Application of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for an Order Requiring the Production of Tangible Things (pdf)

Congress’ NSA Bulk Surveillance Reform Bill: Much Ado about Little (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

NSA Bulk Surveillance Could Continue even if Legal Authority Expires on June 1 (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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