POLITICS: PennAve

FISA court renews phone metadata program

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Politics,White House,Brian Hughes,Barack Obama,National Security,PennAve,NSA,Edward Snowden,Surveillance,Law

The Obama administration announced Friday that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had renewed its authority to operate a controversial telephone metadata collection program.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declassified the FISA court ruling as part of an effort to defend the legality of a program that has received widespread scrutiny following disclosures by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

“The intelligence community continues to be open to modifications to this program that would provide additional privacy and civil liberty protections while still maintaining its operational benefits,” ODNI spokesman Shawn Turner said, announcing the renewal.

Obama has pledged to unveil a series of reforms for the NSA surveillance techniques in January after an outside panel recommended structural changes to how the government collects and stores Americans’ private information.

The most far-reaching recommendation from the outside group is that phone companies, not the government, store all metadata.

However, critics have said those suggestions do little to limit the scope of the clandestine surveillance techniques.

The FISA court renewal also comes after a federal judge recently ruled that the phone records program likely violates the Fourth Amendment -- but put a stay on the order pending a government appeal. The Justice Department on Friday appealed that ruling.

A federal judge in New York City recently, however, said the program was legal.

With a series of contradictory opinions in the lower courts, critics of the NSA programs are urging the Supreme Court to take up the issue.

And Obama surrogates on Friday alluded to possible changes coming from the president.

“The administration will review all of these recommendations and consult with Congress and the intelligence community,” Turner said, “to determine if there are ways to achieve our counterterrorism mission in a manner that gives the American people greater confidence.”

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