The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court (FISA) renewed the US phone surveillance program brought to light by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The US government made the announcement on Friday. The program is one of two data collection programs leaked by Snowden, a former security contractor to the NSA.
The authority of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to maintain the program expired on Friday. However, the government sought and received the approval to renew the program. It was granted by FISA.
The ODNI explained it was disclosing the renewal in an effort to be more transparent following Snowden’s leaks. Along with the US phone surveillance program, intelligence officials are working to declassify other information on the programs that Snowden already partially disclosed earlier this month.
US officials faced an uproar from the public when Snowden revealed the widespread US surveillance programs. The programs include the collection of telephone records and some internet information, including emails. Intelligence officials rushed to defend the programs as legal and just under FISA. The act still requires a secret court to approve the surveillance programs.
Robert Litt, general counsel of ODNI, explained on Friday that intelligence officials are looking across FISA’s activities to see what can be declassified. He explained:
“We’re trying to prioritize things that we think are of the greatest public interest. The highest priority is getting out fuller information about the programs about which partial information is already out.”
Both programs leaked by Snowden are run by the NSA (National Security Agency). They pick up millions of telephone and internet records each day. Intelligence officials defending the program have said the programs have helped stop dozens of terrorist attacks. They have also said that they only target foreign suspects outside the United States and also take care not to look at the content of any conversations or messages by American citizens.
But the programs have still raised concerns about whether or not the United States is spying on Americans. The NSA is able to reach into data streams from Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and several others. The programs allow them to take out emails, video chats, pictures, and more.
While officials work to declassify parts of the programs he leaked, Edward Snowden remains in a Russian airport attempting to seek asylum from several countries. He is charged with espionage for his role in leaking the programs.
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