Did You Enjoy the 28 Days the NSA Stopped Spying on You?

A secret court just allowed the NSA to resume its bulk collection program.

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Jul 1 2015, 4:11pm

Image: Jeramey Jannene

The National Security Agency has just resumed the bulk collection of every American's telephone call information, even though a Federal Appeals Court judge ruled the program illegal earlier this year and Congress just voted to end the program altogether.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose proceedings are normally secret, issued a ruling earlier this week granting the NSA to continue collecting the metadata of Americans' phone calls for 180 days. Metadata includes things like call times, locations, and the numbers you're calling (or receiving calls from) and can generally be used to identify you.

Two things make this possible. First, the FISC says that it does not agree with the Second Circuit Appeals Court ruling that said the bulk collection program is illegal. Second, Congress wrote a provision into the recently-passed USA FREEDOM Act, which ostensibly ends the program, that allows bulk surveillance to continue for six months from when the law was passed.

"Second Circuit rulings are not binding on the FISC, and this Court respectfully disagrees with that Court's analysis," the FISC wrote.

And here's its reasoning for why the NSA can continue bulk collection for a limited amount of time under the USA FREEDOM Act.

"The question, therefore, is whether Congress has authorized bulk acquisition of call detail records during the interim 180-day period. The court finds that it has," the FISA court wrote. "In passing the USA FREEDOM Act, Congress clearly intended to end bulk data collection of business records and other things. But what it took away with one hand, it gave back—for a limited time—with the other."

The Patriot Act provision, called Section 215, that allows this type of bulk surveillance expired on June 1, and the NSA was allowed to resume collection on June 29. Did you enjoy the 28 days in which you weren't surveilled in this way? The new date the NSA must stop the program is November 29, 2015. Mark your calendars.