If you thought the USA Freedom Act and the elaborate show of politics last month around the expiry of key Patriot Act provisions that allowed the NSA to collect the phone records of every American citizen meant an end to the program, you were sorely wrong.
As we pointed out on May 31st, the show of political theater will in reality change nothing and it turns out proof has emerged that this is exactly what has happened.
Because on Monday, the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) ruled that the NSA can continue to collect and store records until a 180-day transition period ends.
The USA Freedom Act, which is theory will rein in the level of surveillance by forcing telecom companies to store the NSA's data and then make the agency apply for the information, doesn't take effect until 180 days after the legislation was signed.
"After considering the views of amici, the court held that the continuation of the NSA’s bulk telephony metadata program during the transition period remains consistent with both the statute and the Fourth Amendment," the Department of Justice said in a statement.
"The court’s new primary order requires that during the transition period, absent a true emergency, 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."
While the classified FISC ruling only allows the NSA to collect data from two hops instead of three, essentially allowing them to track who made the call, and anyone the call recipient contacts, the net real effect is that its business as usual for the NSA.
As we pointed out previously, with billions of dollars spent on the most sophisticated data processing systems the world has ever known, the NSA will not stop spying on American citizens until the organization is completely audited and, more importantly, de-funded.
In what is surely a publicity stunt, the U.S. government promises that if it thinks the secret FISC decision decision doesn't compromise national security the Office of the Director of National Intelligence will publish the ruling on his Tumblr page.