On Thursday the White House was mum on whether they would seek renewal of the “secret” court order that allows the NSA to collect the phone records and e-mails of Americans without due process.
Officials declined to discuss what action they intend to take about the order at the center of the current surveillance scandal, which formally expires at 5pm Friday. [..]
On Thursday, the administration would not answer a question first posed by the Guardian six days ago about its intentions to continue, modify or discontinue the Verizon bulk-collection order. The White House referred queries to the Justice Department. “We have no announcement at this time,” said Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon. The NSA and office of the Director of National Intelligence did not respond to questions.
At a hearing on Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee, the top lawyer for the director of national intelligence, Robert S Litt, was asked by the chairman, Bob Goodlatte, if the administration thought if a surveillance program “of this magnitude … could be indefinitely kept secret from the American people?”
Litt answered, “well, we tried.”
Since the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, the White House decided on Friday to come clean that they would continue to violate the Fourth Amendment with impunity:
In an unprecedented move prompted by the Guardian’s disclosure in June of the NSA’s indiscriminate collection of Verizon metadata, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has publicly revealed that the scheme has been extended yet again.
The statement does not mention Verizon by name, nor make clear how long the extension lasts for, but it is likely to span a further three months in line with previous routine orders from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa). [..]
The decision to go public with the latest Fisa court order is an indication of how the Obama administration has opened up the previously hidden world of mass communications surveillance, however slightly, since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden exposed the scheme to the Guardian.
Earlier on Friday, ODNI lawyer, Litt, told the Brookings Institute that the intelligence chiefs would consider NSA data collection changesbut continued defending the unconstitutional program:
“It is, however, not the only way that we could regulate intelligence collection,” Litt said. “We’re currently working to declassify more information about our activities to inform that discussion,” particularly concerning the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records. [..]
“That could be a significant problem in a fast-moving investigation where speed and agility are critical, such as the plot to bomb the New York City subways in 2009,” Litt said.
But Litt also noted: “All of the metadata we get under this program is information that the telecommunications companies obtain and keep for their own business purposes.”
He acknowledged in the beginning of his speech: “There is an entirely understandable concern that the government may abuse this power.”
In response to a question about the legality of the program, Litt also suggested that congress could pass a law permitting the NSA to collect the records.
“You’d have to make sure that it enables the kind of flexibility and operational agility that we need to conduct the collection,” Litt said. “We don’t think a new statute is necessary. We think we have the authority. But obviously, if Congress thinks a new statute is appropriate for this, Congress can provide that.”
Brilliant, let’s pass another unconstitutional law. Way to go, Barack.