NSA will lose access to its surveillance metadata in Nov. 29

Pierluigi Paganini July 28, 2015

Metadata acquired due to the NSA surveillance programs was ruled illegal by a court in May 2015. The NSA will lose access to its metadata in Nov. 29.

According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the NSA will destroy millions of US phone records collected during its investigation. The process will be gradual, the NSA initially will restrict the access to the precious data and ultimately will destroy it, in compliance with the federal law recently passed.

The NSA collected an impressive amount of metadata under the authorization provided by the Section 215 of the Patriot Act legally which explicitly allows the law enforcement agencies to collect “any tangible things” linked to ongoing investigation into any terrorist activity.

The NSA collected only metadata related to the phone calls, this means that the content of conversations was not recorded by the NSA agents.

The law orders the end of massive surveillance activities related to US citizens,  it ruled that the surveillance run by the NSA is Not Authorized by the Patriot Act.

The new bill gives the agency a 6-month grace period to end its metadata collection program as well as destroy the data collected in the past.

“On June 29, 2015, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved the Government’s application to resume the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata program pursuant to the USA FREEDOM Act’s 180-day transition provision. As part of our effort to transition to the new authority, we have evaluated whether NSA should maintain access to the historical metadata after the conclusion of that 180-day period. ” reports the ODNI statement issued on Monday.

The ODNI didn’t provide information of the roadmap that will conclude with the destruction of the amazing amount of metadata collected by the NSA, but highlighted the necessity to retain them until the lawsuits around the metadata collection program are ongoing.

“Separately, NSA remains under a continuing legal obligation to preserve its bulk 215 telephony metadata collection until civil litigation regarding the program is resolved, or the relevant courts relieve NSA of such obligations. The telephony metadata preserved solely because of preservation obligations in pending civil litigation will not be used or accessed for any other purpose, and, as soon as possible, NSA will destroy the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata upon expiration of its litigation preservation obligations.”

According to the Snowden’s revelation, the surveillance activities began in response to the dramatic attack of the 9/11  2001. The law establishes that bulk collection of surveillance data have to be destroyed after every five years.

Under this program, the US intelligence agency collected only the data related to the called phone numbers. However, no content of the phone call conversations was recorded by the agency.

Snowden revealed that the US surveillance program was extended on a global scale, also thanks the support of other countries of the Five Eyes alliance

Among the victims of the US spies there were private companies, government entities and politicians, the list of targets is very long and includes famous names like the Sim maker Gemalto and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The bill was passed in June by President Barack Obama and Congress, despite definitively stopping the massive surveillance run by the NSA, allows the US intelligence to request the records from telecom companies if the information is used by the agency for their investigation on terrorism.

Another novelty introduced by the bill is the process for requesting permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to access records from the telecom companies.

The matadata currently available in the NSA archives would no longer be examined in terrorism investigations after six months of the court rule (November 29, 2015) and information collected by the Agency would be destroyed as soon as possible.

“NSA has determined that analytic access to that historical metadata collected under Section 215 (any data collected before November 29, 2015) will cease on November 29, 2015.  However, solely for data integrity purposes to verify the records produced under the new targeted production authorized by the USA FREEDOM Act, NSA will allow technical personnel to continue to have access to the historical metadata for an additional three months.”  continues the ODNI.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – surveillance , NSA)

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