Good news, surveillance lovers! The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court renewed the NSA's authority to collect metadata on telephone calls in bulk on Friday. Since typically the court has to renew that power every 90 days, the NSA should be all set to go ahead and keep on collecting that data through March.
The metadata collection program is also the focus of a handful of lawsuits, two of which resulted in high profile but divergent decisions in recent weeks. In late December, the D.C. District Court decided that the plaintiffs in one case had standing to file suit, meaning that it's likely a court would decide the program violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.
But a separate Federal District Court of Southern New York opinion on the program's constitutionality found that the collection is legal. The latter was favorably referenced in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence's announcement of the program's renewal. As for the D.C. District court's criticism of the agency's program, here's what the office had to say: "the Department of Justice has filed an appeal of the lone contrary decision issued by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia."
DNI James Clapper also makes reference to another recent examination of the NSA's spying programs: a series of recommendations for the NSA's phone metadata collection program could tweak how that data is stored:
To that end, the Administration is carefully evaluating the recommendation of the President's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies regarding transitioning the program to one in which the data is held by telecommunications companies or a third party. In addition, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board will complete a report on this program in the near future.
That recommendation — taking the bulk collection out of the NSA's hands — was one of 46 from Obama's review panel, created as a response to the Edward Snowden leaks. So far, none have been implemented. Check back with us in March.