NSA, Unplugged: The Government Finally Stopped Vacuuming Up Our Phone Records

Late Saturday night, something extraordinary happened: The NSA stopped forcing U.S. telecommunications companies to hand over the phone records of millions of innocent Americans in bulk.

It did not do so voluntarily, and it did not do so without a fight. It took a courageous whistleblower to first expose the NSA’s domestic spying operation, and then a hard-fought legislative battle, spurred on by a timely federal appeals court decision, to end the NSA’s phone-records program. But now, for the first time in nearly 15 years, Americans are free from the bulk collection of their phone records under this program.

The NSA had been collecting our records in bulk since shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001. At first, it based this program — like many of the Bush administration’s national security excesses — on a naked assertion of presidential power. In 2006, it moved the program under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, overseen by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. And in 2013, the public learned of the program for the first time, when Edward Snowden revealed the program to the press.

Every American should celebrate the end of this overreaching surveillance program. It was illegal from the moment it started, and it amounted to the very sort of indiscriminate search and seizure of private information that our founders fought a revolution to end. And it hasn’t made us any safer. In fact, two separate governmental review groups concluded that it hasn’t directly contributed to stopping even a single terrorist attack.

Perhaps even more importantly, the end of this particular bulk-collection program represents a triumph over fear. Since 9/11, politicians have exploited the tragic attacks on our soil to deepen governmental intrusions into our lives and to restrict the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. At the same time, federal courts have largely turned a blind eye to post-9/11 illegalities.

Those same branches of government joined forces, however, to bring an end to the NSA’s phone-records program. Not long after the program was revealed on June 5, 2013, two critical things occurred: On June 11, 2013, the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the program, and several months later the House of Representatives introduced the USA Freedom Act of 2013, a bill designed to halt large-scale surveillance under the Patriot Act (including the phone-records program), to increase transparency, and to start to reform the FISC.

These two fights — one legal and one legislative — lasted nearly two years. Then, on the eve of the June 1, 2015, expiration of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, both fights picked up pace.

On May 7, 2015, a federal appeals court issued a landmark decision in our lawsuit challenging the phone-records program, holding that the program was illegal because Congress never intended to authorize bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Just a few weeks later, Republicans and Democrats worked together to block an attempt to reauthorize Section 215 and to allow the phone-records program to continue.

These two victories paved the way for passage of the final version of the USA Freedom Act, signed by President Obama on June 2, 2015. That version, though weaker than the original, is now fully in effect and requires the NSA to seek narrower court orders before it may obtain phone records or other data in terrorism investigations.

This historic victory represents the first time that Congress has scaled back the NSA’s surveillance of Americans since 1978.

It would be a grave mistake, however, to think that the job is done. Though historic, the USA Freedom Act reformed only a small portion of the NSA’s overreaching surveillance. At this very moment, the NSA continues to collect an extraordinary amount of information, about Americans and foreigners alike, in bulk. It does so under other legal authorities, like Section 702 of the FISA and Executive Order 12333, that Congress and the courts have yet to rein in.

Today we should all celebrate the end to one of the most overreaching domestic surveillance programs ever revealed. Tomorrow, however, we’ll carry on the fight to reform the other authorities the NSA still uses to spy on countless innocent people. 

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mostdefintelyno...

Theres a whole loooooad of communistic freespeech oppression software operating in plain sight in places like the guardian .com
The bullying loudmouthed preaching republibots, liek a biilionlimbaughs unleashed across the web...
then there are the botrs that go by the full stasi book,,,,no rambling speeches of misguided liberalism for them,,,oh no dispute the hilarybots?
subtle death threats and endless presonalised emotionally tuned abuse across al forums... just for you,,,
politicalbots.org is the fornt from which they operate as though they have some control and oversight over this...
ive spotted thousands,, ima youtube user,,,hargauing and bullying and wrnagling psychopaths is my stovk in trade, about a year ago someone replaced them with computer proxies and actually made it passable as human, but when you relaise??
that jim noblin of quora is a bot, debbie the facebook star is a bot as are all the other "stars", they are all fruadulent..
fun isnt it? when you relaise that wall of political opinion that seems impentrable is nothing but an edifice of hot air and mass delsuional thinking.

.

jeff

do you even grammer bro?

Anonymous

"I'm a YouTube user"
Yep...that's pretty clear from the incoherent angry rambling...

Anonymous

disappeared that quick

Anonymous

just get it out there, its all coimmunism if you crush dissent...i dont get this crap for criticising obama,,,,i had a go at him for murderbots,, not a peep...no trolling not a word..
but so much as mention hilary clinton?
you got full attcak mode running,,thoise who support her are blind or purest evil and know what the game is,,,,your would be bourgeousie,,,, noone wants that ,,,
i dont care if you are collectiung it orn ot but stop selling fakes to the good guys,,, you undermine the fabric of your own reality and the reality of FGT will run the globe...
normalising male psychopaths to patriarchal antihomosexual putinity,,,i think i put his bot into an autism loop...
it cant escape the concept lol....it wants insight,,,
there is no more to the tnagulation thing anonymous is,,,
philosphical autism,,,
all the owrds but no depth ...the hilaryredbots? nasty subversive conspiratorial,,,,truly truly only able to propagate that mindset....
i hacked em by roleplaying for hours and hours and hours in their erly coding i think???
i dunno.
reality fucked off long ago in this place..
when the biggest threats to national security are chatbot programm
i didnt write this ...im relianbly informed by the robots i might a well not exist... one of them works for experian,,,,
i wish for no part in any of it yet i cant talk about anything interesting here on the internet anymore,,, shame that...
these bots are the fire in the library of alexandria...
"this site has no record because of robot.txt"
goodbye sweet history we shall meet again...
or maybe it wont die?

Anonymous to you

Say what?

Anonymous

Hello!

Please excuse any egregious errors, as my computer sessions are still being monitored, tampered with and disrupted.

I've started the petition "DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, FBI, CONGRESS: INVESTIGATE" and need your help to get it off the ground.

Will you take 30 seconds to sign it right now? Here's the link:
change.org/p/thomas-e-perez-leslie-r-caldwell-james-comey-elijah-cummings-chuck-grassley-investigate

Here's why it's important: There exists here, A Conspiracy To Violate Civil Rights, Obstruct Justice And Harass:

CRIMES SHOULD BE INVESTIGATED AND PROSECUTED.
Thanks!
WHILE I STILL CAN BREATHE

Anonymous

Thank You! (tears)

Anonymous

Really? You are not telling the full story... The keyword in the first paragraph was "forcing". Now phone companies do all the dirty work of saving our calls and the NSA "pays" them for recording the calls. There is almost no difference, only now there is no force to do it, companies are compensated for it.

Anonymous

^exactly! this isn't a "Big Win" it's a tiny step. This is the narrowing of scope of one tiny part of one program. More like the govt. placing cameras and microphones all over your house and begrudgingly agreeing to let you wear cloths...

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