Something happened over the weekend you may have missed, which has many pondering what will happen next. It slipped right by and most folks didn’t even know it happened — chances are they were watching Stanford kick a last second field goal to defeat Notre Dame late Saturday night. The State of Oklahoma was engrossed in Bedlam 2015 — it’s just a game folks. Maybe they were dealing with power outages in the early winter storm that hit the Midwest. Or trying to decide if the Planned Parenthood shooting was “domestic terrorism.”
In any event, while you were doing something else, the NSA bulk metadata program expired at midnight ET Saturday evening.
As reported by The Guardian, “The language in the US Justice Department statement is far from inspiring, written in bland legalese, but it still represents an important victory for the whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The statement, dated 28 November 2015, says: “Final temporary reauthorization of the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata data program in the US expires.” What that means is that from Saturday, the National Security Agency will no longer directly hold information about the phone calls of millions of US citizens.
The USA Freedom Act, passed in the summer, allowed the NSA a 180-day transition period to sort out arrangements. That period expired on Saturday. It is modest change but it is at least a change, raising public awareness of the scale of government surveillance and opening the way for privacy campaigners to chip away in hopes of further reforms. The reform under the Freedom Act can be traced directly back to a document leaked by Snowden and reported in the Guardian in June 2013 by Glenn Greenwald.
The document was a top-secret court order showing the NSA was collecting the phone records of citizens both in the US and overseas in bulk and indiscriminately. The order was granted by a secret government body, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (Fisa) court. It contradicted a statement only months earlier by James Clapper director of national intelligence, to a Senate committee claiming there was no such collection of the records of US citizens.”
During my time in the U.S. Congress, I voted for the temporary extension of the Patriot Act in order to study the law in depth. When my concerns were not answered, I didn’t support the reauthorization. What concerns me now is where we go from here — not what has alredy happened.
Politicians rant about how terrible the expiration of Section 215 bulk telephone metadata program will be, but this is what leadership is all about. It’s time to come up with a solution. Read More