FISA Court renews phone metadata program, declassifies order

Posted by Ali Watkins on October 21, 2013 

NSA Surveillance Shutdown

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., left, talks with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., during the committee's oversight hearing on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

EVAN VUCCI — AP

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence announced late last week that it would declassify the recent court order from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that renewed the National Security Agency's hotly-contested telephone metadata collection program.

The program, which was the subject of the first documents leaked by former defense contractor Edward Snowden and operates under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, collects domestic telephony metadata from third party telecommunications companies. This metadata includes time and duration of calls, along with the number dialed. Content of communications and location data is not included, officials have said.

Despite a wave of public outcry against the NSA's surveillance program after its unauthorized disclosure in June, the court order cited congressional oversight and previous court interpretations as the grounds for the program's renewal. The program was due to expire on October 11, 2013.

The ODNI's declassification of the FISA court order in the immediate aftermath of the program's renewal signals a bow to growing calls for transparency in the wake of Snowden's leaks. The expired court order that had previously authorized the program was not declassified until months after the bulk metadata collections were revealed in June.

The new order renews the program for less than three months, and is due to expire on January 3, 2014. It's likely that some kind of legislative changes to the NSA and the FISA Court will come from Congress before the new order expires.

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