“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” That’s how a judge on a secretive surveillance court began his order reauthorizing the National Security Agency to once again start collecting Americans’ phone records in bulk. “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” Judge Michael Mosman of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court noted, but only authorizing collections for the next 180 days. Following Congress’s lead, the court is adhering to the newly enacted USA Freedom Act, which allows bulk collection to continue during a six-month transition period. The NSA will use that time to arrange for phone companies to store the records of Americans’ phone calls, which the NSA can then search—with a court order from the Francophile court. Mosman also said that Congress had obviously intended to keep the NSA as the one collecting phone records during this six-month period—something opponents of the law had tried to stop. And in case anyone thought the law requiring the bridge period wasn’t clear enough, Mosman pointed to the legislative history and statements from lawmakers during of a very public debate over NSA surveillance. But a word of caution on that: “To some degree,” he wrote, “finding supportive legislative history for a proposition is a little like stumbling upon a multi-family garage sale: If you rummage around long enough, you will find something for everybody and none of it is worth much.” Mass surveillance of Americans is hilarious! At least for the next 180 days.
— Shane Harris