“Snowden Effect” in Action: NSA Authority to Collect Bulk Phone Metadata Expires

The National Security Agency no longer has authority to collect phone metadata in bulk as of midnight, Saturday, November 28.

DRESDEN, GERMANY - JANUARY 05:  A sticker demanding asylum for whistleblower and former NSA worker Edward Snowden hangs stuck to a lamppost on January 5, 2015 in Dresden, Germany. Many Germans favour granting Snowden asylum in Germany following reports that the NSA has conducted extensive eavesrodpping operations in Germany and even listened in on the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The National Security Agency no longer has legal authority to collect phone metadata in bulk as of midnight, Saturday, November 28. The executive branch previously claimed the government possessed such authority under Section 215 of 2001’s USA PATRIOT Act, which gave the FBI power to demand “any tangible things” needed “for an investigation to obtain foreign intelligence information.” The FBI was thus able to obtain the phone records of millions of Americans from U.S. telecommunications companies and turn them over to the NSA.

The USA FREEDOM Act, signed into law on June 2 earlier this year, gave the executive branch 180 days to wind down the bulk collection program. According to the Tumblr of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the government is “prohibited from collecting telephone metadata records in bulk” starting November 29. The executive branch will now be able to obtain phone metadata by asking the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to order telecommunications companies to turn over specific records.

The end of the bulk collection program is a modest but real victory for former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, who provided documents concerning the program to Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, co-founding editors of The Intercept. The first article by Greenwald based on the documents leaked by Snowden, published on June 6, 2013, was about the bulk collection program.

Read also:

NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily

• UN Report Finds Mass Surveillance Violates International Treaties and Privacy Rights

• Former FBI Director Defends Metadata Collection

• Whistleblowers Back “Surveillance State Repeal Act”

• Why the USA Freedom Act Is Both Desperately Important and Laughably Pathetic

• Hayden Mocks Extent of Post-Snowden Reform: “And This Is It After Two Years? Cool!”

• NSA Will Destroy Archived Metadata When Program Stops

• Spying on the Internet Is Orders of Magnitude More Invasive Than Phone Metadata

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