Section 215 of the Patriot Act gives the NSA and FBI the power to collect the phone records of innocent Americans. Although the NSA shut down its spying program, it changed its mind (via The Register).
Section 215 Spying
Daniel Coats, Director of National Intelligence, wrote a letter [PDF] to members of Congress. In it he says the NSA’s spying program should be reinstated permanently, instead of being part of a bill that needs to be periodically renewed.
In June 2018 it allegedly deleted 534 million phone records it had “accidentally” collected. Then in October 2018 it happened again. Knowing that the public would soon learn of this, the NSA let congressional aides know it was going to cancel the program in early 2019.
Since then, the NSA has repeatedly refused to discuss the program or even confirm that it has stopped the program. However in a sign that it has been talking behind the scenes to key senators, a law bill intended to reauthorize the spying powers before December notably did not include this specific program (it does include three other spying measures.)
Many had assumed that was the end of it. But Coats in his letter this week not only suggests reauthorizing the program but says it should be done so on a permanent basis – meaning that there will be even less accountability since Congress will not be in a position to ask questions and threaten to let the powers expire if they are not answered.