Secret court renews US government surveillance programs

Surveillance programs in the United States that collect telephone records aren't going anywhere after the American government on Friday said it received renewals to do so.

The secret court that oversees US surveillance programs granted the government's request to continue seeking the metadata, Reuters reported.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the program expired on Friday, but the government sought and received a renewal from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court.

The government is disclosing the renewal as part of an effort at greater transparency after former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden leaked details of top-secret US surveillance programs to the media, Reuters said.

Renewals came at 5 pm Eastern time, just at the deadline, The Atlantic Wire said.

In a statement on the DNI website (which appeared to be down shortly after it made the announcement), the government said it was trying to help Americans better understand the methods.

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.

Earlier on Friday, a top government aide tried to offer more reassurances the methods are reasonable.

Robert S. Litt, ODNI general counsel, told a Brookings Institution event the government has the proper checks and balances in place to ensure metadata collected would not compromise privacy.

Given the Snowden leak, however, he conceded the government was trying to avoid detection and must now deal with consequences.

“To a certain extent, what’s highest priority is getting out fuller information about the programs about which partial information is already out,” he said, according to Politico.

Reuters contributed to this report.