On Friday, the secret court that oversees cases related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act renewed the order that enables the NSA to compel American telcos to hand over records whenever it wants. Translation: No end in sight to the NSA spying on phone records.
The existing order was set to expire at 5pm on Friday, but the FISA court handed down the decision right under the wire. Normally these details are kept top secret, but the US government decided to declassify the details in light of the increased scrutiny over the NSA’s so called telephony metadata program. If broadcasting the fact that you’re going to keep doing the thing that’s making America mad sounds kind of counterintuitive, that’s because it is.
In general, it doesn’t look like the US government’s going to pull back on the spying any time soon. Earlier on Friday, the Obama administration responded to one of the lawsuits filed after Edward Snowden’s leak six weeks ago and said it would keep collecting phone records as long as it was in the “public interest”. It added that the NSA program doesn’t violate Americans’ constitutional rights, and even if you thought it did, it can’t be challenged in court. While the administration these things is very different than a judge saying them, it does take the wind out of privacy advocates sails a bit. At the very least, it shows that they’re facing an uncompromising foe.
And that’s where this whole thing continues be upsetting. It’s unfortunate when government programs pit American citizens against their leaders. This is not an isolated issue that affects a few people. We recently learned that the NSA surveillance covered not only individuals with potential terrorists but also everybody they know and everybody that they know. Poor Kevin Bacon probably hasn’t had a truly private conversation in a decade.
There is some good news to this week’s happenings. We now know more than ever before exactly how the NSA’s telephony metadata program works. Unfortunately, the more we learn, the less it seems we can do. [RT, Wired]