Today the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement announcing that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has given the NSA permission to continue collecting phone records in the US. Such permission is granted via a FISA business records provision, and requires a periodic re-authorization request to be submitted.
The phone record collection includes the gathering of so-called metadata, which encompasses things like phone numbers, the times calls were made and received, and the duration of the calls. The substance of the calls -- the conversation, essentially -- isn't said to be gathered, however. All information collected is then compiled into large databases for use by NSA workers.
The statement released today was very brief, but said in part: "Consistent with his prior declassification decision and in light of the significant and continuing public interest in the telephony metadata collection program, DNI Clapper 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."
It has been known for a while now that the NSA has been collecting phone records. Back in early June, for example, it was revealed by The Guardian that Verizon had been ordered in secret to hand over customer records, and earlier this month it was revealed that the agency had collected bulk data to pin-point the location of US handsets.
SOURCE: The Hill