The NSA can continue to monitor when and where millions and millions of Americans use their cellphones, and who they're calling and texting.
The USA Freedom Act is supposed to slightly rein in that level of surveillance, by forcing telcos to collect the records and make the Feds apply for the information. That doesn't kick in until 180 days after the legislation was signed off at the start of June.
On Monday this week, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) ruled that the NSA can continue to plunder and store records at will until that 180-day period ends.
"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," said the US Department of Justice 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."
There are slight caveats, however. The FISC ruling states that the intelligence agencies can only collect metadata from a target and the next two hops instead of three. In English, that means they can track who made the call, and the metadata of anyone the call recipient contacts, and anyone those people call.
In addition, the US government promises to study the FISC decision, and decide if it contents will be classified. If the ruling's text is deemed not a threat to national security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence will publish the document on its Tumblr page.
Looks like The Who had it right. ®