Court Renews Bulk Phone Surveillance Program

     (CN) - New reforms of the government's domestic surveillance program are not incorporated in a 90-day renewal that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has approved.
     A Senate vote is still necessary for the United States to enact the U.S.A. Freedom Act, which requires the National Security Agency to make telephone-metadata requests tied to a "specific selection term."
     The House passed new legislation by a vote of 303-121 in May.
     "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," the Justice Department said.
     A judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) approved the request Thursday, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper declassified that fact Friday.
     The renewal incorporates changes that took effect in February. One feature of the current program is that, "absent a true emergency, the telephony metadata can only be queried after a judicial finding that there is a reasonable, articulable suspicion that the selection term is associated with an approved international terrorist organization."
     Query results must also "be limited to metadata within two hops of the selection term instead of three," the Justice Department said.
     Obama still supports the U.S.A. Freedom Act, according to the release.
     "We urge the Senate to swiftly consider it, and remain ready to work with Congress to clarify that the bill prohibits bulk collection as noted above, as necessary," the Justice Department said.