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FISA court renews authority to collect phone records

U.S. intelligence officials decide to publicize the renewal of the government's surveillance program. In other words: Let the NSA spying keep on rolling.

A top-secret federal court has renewed the authority of the U.S. government to collect telephone records as part of its surveillance program. In other words: Let the federal spying keep on rolling.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Friday said that it had decided to declassify more information, including the renewal, of the surveillance program that was revealed last month by former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden. The renewal of the program occurs regularly but is normally not publicized.

The effort follows a recent move by tech giants to push for greater transparency by the National Security Agency. Sixty-three companies, trade groups, and civil liberties groups on Thursday published a letter asking officials for more latitude in reporting U.S. government requests for user information.

The tech giants denied allegations last month that they gave the NSA "direct access" to their servers through the so-called PRISM program. Subsequent reporting by CNET revealed that there was no evidence of direct access.

Here is today's statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in full:

As indicated by a previously classified court order disclosed by the media on June 5, 2013, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorization requiring the production of certain telephony metadata under the "business records" provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), 50 U.S.C. Section 1861, expires on July 19, 2013.

On June 6, 2013, the Director of National Intelligence declassified certain information about this telephony metadata collection program in order to provide the public with a more thorough and balanced understanding of the program. Consistent with his prior declassification decision and in light of the significant and continuing public interest in the telephony metadata collection program, the DNI has decided to declassify and disclose publicly that the Government filed an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court seeking renewal of the authority to collect telephony metadata in bulk, and that the Court renewed that authority.

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.