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The NSA is temporarily restarting bulk collection of call records, thanks to the USA Freedom Act

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When Congress stalled out on Sunday, surveillance reformers scored a symbolic but tangible victory. Without legal authorization, the NSA was forced to shut down bulk collection just before 8PM that night. Now, with the USA Freedom Act signed into law, assuring the eventual shutdown of the program, it's unexpectedly coming back online.

The Guardian is reporting that, after the brief hiatus imposed by Congress, the NSA is gearing up to bring the call records collection system back online. It's possible because of a provision in the USA Freedom Act which gives the agency six months before it needs to get rid of the program entirely. The bill was drafted with the assumption that USA Freedom would pass before the Patriot Act expired, so the six-month extension was included to give the NSA time to prepare. No one expected that, having shut down the program in the interim, the NSA would use that provision as an excuse to start it up again.

The restarted collection is only temporary. The NSA is still legally obligated to shut down the program in December, and it's unlikely that Congress or the president will do anything to extend that deadline. Still, it's a reminder of how committed the NSA is to sustaining the program, even temporarily, and how difficult a road reformers face trying to get the agency to give up more powerful programs like web metadata collection or PRISM.