Washington: A US court overseeing spy agencies has renewed the government's authority to carry out a controversial phone surveillance programme for another three months, federal bodies have said, attributing it to the delay in the passage of the surveillance reform bill by the Senate.
Reauthorisation from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) will allow the National Security Agency (NSA) to continue to warrantlessly collect "metadata" in bulk about people's phone calls. The records contain information about which numbers people called, when and how long they talked, but not the actual content of their conversations.
"Given that legislation has not yet been enacted, and given the importance of maintaining the capabilities of the Section 215 telephony metadata programme, the government has sought a 90-day reauthorisation of the existing programme, as modified by the changes the President announced in January," the US Department of Justice and the Director of National Intelligence said in a joint statement.
The NSA's phone records program needs to be reauthorized by the FISC every 90 days. The current authority expires on December 5.
While the House of Representatives passed the bill in this regard early this year, it is stuck in the Senate.
"The Department of Justice and the Director of National Intelligence support this legislation and believe that it reflects a reasonable compromise that preserves essential intelligence community capabilities, enhances privacy and civil liberties, and increases transparency," the Department of Justice and the Director of National Intelligence said.
Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, fled the US in 2013, after leaking data concerning the NSA surveillance programs around the world.