NSA continues to collect millions of American cell phone records thanks to secretive FISA court

End The Lieby Madison Ruppert

The highly secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court extended the National Security Agency’s authority to gather and store millions of phone records belonging to American cell phone users, a practice which has continued unabated since 2006.

The true extent of this program was revealed in early June after Edward Snowden leaked a court order showing that the FISA court ordered Verizon to hand over information on all of their U.S. subscribers to the NSA.

Since that time, more information about the massive scope of NSA surveillance programs has continued to be published, leading to international outcry and a lawsuit filed by a large, diverse coalition.

The most interesting aspect of this latest renewal of the NSA’s collection program is that it was actually confirmed in an official statement by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

That was the first time that U.S. officials have publicly acknowledged what The Washington Post called, “a routine renewal of the legal framework for one of the government’s most sensitive and controversial data-collection programs.”

The Office of the DNI’s statement said that they sought to renew “the authority to collect telephony metadata in bulk, and that the [FISA] Court renewed that authority.”

The FISA court responsible for reauthorizing the collection of millions of records is shrouded in secrecy but lawmakers have begun to push back in an attempt to get some of the opinions declassified.

Indeed, the opposition in Congress has become quite noticeable.

“This is unsustainable, outrageous and must be stopped immediately,” said Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), during a Judiciary Committee hearing earlier in the week.

“How do we keep this from evolving into an unchecked weapons that can be used against people’s rights?” asked Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), according to USA Today.

The statement said that they were publicly acknowledging the FISA court’s action “in light of the significant and continuing public interest in the telephony metadata collection program.”

In addition, it was stated that Obama administration officials are reviewing if addition information about the NSA surveillance programs could be released publicly in a way that is “consistent with the protection of national security.”

It is important to note that the Office of the DNI’s statement made no mention of specific cell phone carriers. One might wonder if that is because at least one lawsuit has been filed over the collection of Verizon records.

Despite statements from critics who maintain that the surveillance program is, in fact, illegal, the Obama administration maintains that it is all above board.

DNI counsel Robert Litt, for instance, maintained that “these programs are legal” because they are authorized by Congress, the courts and the White House, according to the Associated Press.

In addition, Litt maintained that the exposure of the programs could hinder the US government’s ability to detect threats against the United States.

“Only time will tell the full extent of the damage caused by the unlawful disclosures of these lawful programs,” Litt said.

Attorney General Eric Holder has also maintained that the information leaked about the NSA surveillance programs is extremely damaging to national security.

Given the fact that the government is now openly talking about the widespread surveillance of the American people, one must wonder just how dangerous it really is.

Via End The Lie