Despite worldwide revulsion and condemnation following The Guardian newspaper’s publication of Edward Snowden’s evidence that the United States National Security Agency (NSA) has been trawling through the phone records of millions of American citizens, a secret court has granted the NSA license to continue.
That we even know about this decision however, is being seen by many observers as evidence that the Obama administration is beginning to open up the secretive world of mass communications surveillance. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) made the surprising move of publically announcing the extension, stating that it did so ‘in order to provide the public with a more thorough and balanced understanding of the [PRISM] program’.
It is understood that the court order permitting the surveillance, issued by the secret Foreign Intelligence Court (FSA), has been in place for the last six years, subject to renewal every three months. Although the ODNI did not release any details about the latest renewal, it is presumed that it extends the NSA’s carte-blanche to spy on US citizen’s telecoms data for another three months.
Whether this trend toward transparency by the US government continues remains to be seen, but the ODNI statement said ‘the administration is undertaking a careful and thorough review of whether and to what extent additional information or documents pertaining to this program may be declassified, consistent with the protection of national security’.