Is the NSA to shut down bulk surveillance programs? Maybe not.

The NSA bulk surveillance program is hanging by a thread — as the controversial Patriot Act expires and as US Senate did not manage to adopt a replacement bill (the USA Freedom Act) before its week-long recess.

The Associated Press reports…

“In a chaotic scene during the wee hours of Saturday, Senate Republicans blocked a bill known as the USA Freedom Act, which would have ended the NSA’s bulk collection but preserved its ability to search the records held by the phone companies on a case-by-case basis. The bill was backed by President Barack Obama, House Republicans and the nation’s top law enforcement and intelligence officials.”

There will be an emergency session scheduled for Sunday, May 31st.

This is a cliff hanger. But even if the replacement bill will be adopted, bulk mass surveillance will not end. It will only change form.

The USA Freedom Act obliges telecoms meta data to be kept by the phone companies. This is the same model as in the EU Data Retention Directive. Even though this directive has been invalidated by the European Court of Justice for breaching human rights, it is already implemented in most EU member states.

In many EU countries authorities use data retention on a massive scale and in a rather indiscriminate way. There are even attempts to give the police direct online access to meta data held by the telecoms, in some countries.

So even if the Freedom Act might be adopted it will not be the end of bulk collection of telecoms data in the US. It will not be as bad as the Patriot Act, but still it will be pretty bad.

However, it will be interesting to see what happens if the Freedom Act is not adopted before the Patriot Act expires. In that case the NSA might have to shut down parts of their operation. At least for some time. (For all the public is allowed to know…)

• NSA is getting ready to shut down bulk surveillance programs in response to failed Senate vote »
• NSA winds down once-secret phone-records collection program »

Update: Julian Assange: Despite Congressional Standoff, NSA Has Secret Authority to Continue Spying Unabated »


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