NSA Mass Phone Collection “Winding Down,” as Senate Fails to Find a Solution

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Posted by: DeepDotWeb

May 26, 2015

The Senate was busy on Friday in a session that ran late into the night ultimately failing to come up with a solution to the June 1st expatriation date of section 215 of the Patriot Act. The session ran into the early morning where all attempts to extend fell short.

The USA Freedom act, which we covered here, narrowly failed to earn the 60 necessary votes it needed to gather to pass in the Senate. The Act failed with a 57 – 42 vote.

Rand Paul and his Filibuster

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a steady critic of the NSA, performed a filibuster of sorts. Paul purposely used up critical time on the floor to delay much needed debate. After the session Paul took twitter to congratulate himself and remind his followers his fight isn’t over.

Paul drew criticisms from lawmakers including many within his own party. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas was skeptical that any changes Paul wanted would be approved and hopes to gain more support in the upcoming days.

Sen. Paul is asking for something that nobody will agree to,” Cornyn said. “My hope is in the meantime … after everybody gets a good night sleep and is thinking clearly, that we can figure a way forward on this.”

Vacation Planning

Lawmakers are busy in Washington, working during this week-long vacation, to come up with a solution before the NSA will be forced to quit collecting bulk phone records for good. Now lawmakers are hoping to find a common ground as the USA Freedom Act heads back to the House for revisions.

Members of the House Intelligence Committee have hopes they can transfer the storage of phone data from the hands of the government to the telephone companies. There’s not much detail about this plan and there are concerns the companies may not possess the sophistication to do so. There is also the question of how long such a transition would take – and at this point would indicate a complete lapse in collection as a whole.

Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Rep. Devin Nunes of California, along with Sen. McConnell of Kentucky, want more time. Burr said he would like to see that transition take place over two years.

“The question is whether the technology can be developed in time, over a six-month window,” Mr. Nunes said. “I think it can be. I was at N.S.A. reviewing this 10 days ago.”

What happens now?

The New York Times spoke with a Senior American Intelligence official who said the NSA is beginning the “wind-down process” for the bulk collection of phone call data. According to the story:

The Obama administration is weighing what the looming expiration of three counterterrorism laws — including the provision that has been cited to allow the National Security Agency to vacuum up logs of Americans’ phone calls — would mean for future operations, even as officials say the “wind-down process” for the bulk calling data program has already begun.

But exactly it’s not clear exactly what those steps are:

Obama administration officials said Saturday that the government was starting to take steps to shut down the bulk phone records program by the deadline. However, it was not clear what preliminary steps are necessary, since the program simply involves phone companies’ handing over billing records each day. Pressed to explain what the government meant by taking such steps, multiple officials declined to answer.

The Senate reconvenes on Sunday and will have one last attempt to have a plan in order before Section 215 of the Patriot Act expires on June 1st.

The Candidate is a weekly columnist at DeepDotWeb
Reach him by email at thecandidate@openmailbox.org

Updated: 2015-05-26