A ruling by a secret court, in the US, extends the bulk data collection of phone records, by the NSA, to June 1. President Obama is working with Congress to attempt to pass a law to reauthorize the program before that time. The court accepted the president’s request to extend the date to put it in sync with the upcoming expiration of section 215 of the Patriot Act.
The president has presented a reform bill, called the USA Freedom Act, to Congress. The bill reauthorizes the data collection program but with some changes to limit the powers of the NSA. Under this bill the data that is collected would remain with the telecommunications companies rather than being held by the NSA, and the NSA could only request the data if they obtain a court order. However this bill is currently stalled in Congress.
Congress must also decide whether or not to reauthorize section 215 of the Patriot Act, which is also set to expire on June 1. According to the Snowden leaks, Section 215 is used by both the NSA and FBI to justify bulk data collection. Section 215 is also notorious for provisions that gag companies from telling customers if their data has been shared with the NSA. Despite the fact that it has been passed multiple times, privacy groups have called on Congress to not reauthorize section 215 when it expires in June.
Some legal experts believe that even if the Section 215 is allowed to expire, there are other laws which have been passed that could be interpreted to allow bulk data collection. The reform bill proposed by Obama may put some people at ease with the limitations it imposes on the NSA, but for many it doesn’t go far enough and the NSA surveillance needs to be rolled back further.
Do you support Obama’s reform bill to limit the NSA’s surveillance operations, or does it not go far enough? Leave your comments below.