from the well,-that-was-an-idea dept
We welcome your proposal, announced on March 27, 2014, to end the bulk collection of Americans' phone records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. We believe as you do that the government can protect national security by collecting the phone records of individuals connected to terrorism, instead of collecting the records of millions of law-abiding Americans. We also believe that you have the authority to implement your proposal now, rather than continuing to reauthorize the existing bulk collection program in 90-day increments.And, of course, just hours later, James Clapper responded, not to the letter, but in a Tumblr post, which again mentions how President Obama promised to end such bulk collection, but then saying that the administration is still seeking the next 90 day extension to keep collecting those phone records. The post even calls out the passage of the totally watered-down USA Freedom Act in the House as "prohibiting" such bulk collection (even though it doesn't really do that, since it allows broad selectors that give the NSA effectively the same power). However...
Given that legislation has not yet been enacted, and given the importance of maintaining the capabilities of the Section 215 telephony metadata program, the government has sought a 90-day reauthorization of the existing program, as modified by the changes the President announced earlier this year.Wait. Given what importance of maintaining the capabilities? So far, every analysis of the program has shown that it wasn't important at all. How could anyone in the administration still claim with a straight face that the Section 215 bulk phone records collection is "important" when everyone who's seen the evidence agrees that the program has been next to useless in stopping terrorism.
Consistent with prior declassification decisions, in light of the significant and continuing public interest in the telephony metadata collection program, the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, has declassified the fact that the government’s application to renew the program was approved yesterday by the FISC. The order issued yesterday expires on September 12, 2014.
Either way, even though President Obama has already said that he wants the program ended, and he could do so, he's still keeping it going.