NSA can restart bulk data collection, says surveillance court

The ongoing saga around the NSA's bulk data collection program is getting even more confusing. A U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled yesterday that the program can temporarily resume, refuting a Second Circuit court decision from May deeming it illegal, reports the New York Times. "Second Circuit rulings are not binding" said the surveillance court's Judge Michael Mosman, in an opinion released today, "and this court respectfully disagrees with that court's analysis, especially in view of the intervening enactment of the U.S.A. Freedom Act." The news comes after Congress voted to reform government surveillance by voting in the Freedom Act in June, which effectively ends bulk data collection by requiring agencies to get court approval when requesting information from telecoms and other firms. The White House quietly moved to resume the program shortly after the Freedom Act was signed.

So what does this mean? Government agencies will be able to continue bulk data collection for the next 180 days -- the grace period specified in the Freedom Act for winding down the program. The ACLU, meanwhile, says it will ask the Second Circuit to issue an injunction to stop data collection during this period. That's something the court didn't do when it ruled back in May, since it was holding out to see how Congress would vote on the Freedom Act.

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