No changes at NSA after court ruling

No changes at NSA after court ruling

The National Security Agency isn’t making any policy changes following a sweeping federal court ruling against its bulk collection of Americans’ phone records last week.

Instead, NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers said in his first public comments since Thursday’s ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that the ball was back in Congress’s court, and it was up to lawmakers to consider how the agency should proceed.

“You’ll be seeing play out in Congress in the next few weeks a discussion about what’s the right way ahead here,” Rogers said during remarks at George Washington University.

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“I always remind people, in the end, the National Security Agency executes a legal framework,” he added. “That legal framework is developed by our Congress and tested by the courts. That’s exactly the way the Constitution works.” The comments largely echo the instructions from the top appeals court, which declined to dismantle the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, even while declaring it illegal.

Instead, knowing that a legal deadline looms at the end of the month, the court effectively held off, deferring to Congress to either explicitly allow the NSA operation or reform it by law. That deadline of June 1 involves the expiration of three provisions of the Patriot Act, including Section 215, which the NSA has said authorizes its data collection program.

The White House has put its support behind the USA Freedom Act, which would end the phone records program and instead have the agency use a “specific selection term” to request a narrow set of records about people’s phone calls. That follows a speech from President Obama more than a year ago, in which he called for “a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata.” 

The message from the court’s ruling was “very consistent” with that speech, Rogers said.

Updated at 11:35 a.m.