Will NSA bulk phone records program continue after June 1?

NSA protests
Civil liberties activists hold a rally against surveillance of US citizens as President Barack Obama announces reforms of the National Security Agency at the Justice Department in Washington on Jan. 17, 2014.
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

The legal basis for the National Security Agency's bulk phone records program expires June 1.

What powers does President Obama have to keep the program going, even if Congress allows Section 215 of the Patriot Act to expire?

From The New York Times:

"I believe that if we do not pass this bill, the metadata program is at risk because the 215 program sunsets next year," Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said in Tuesday night's debate. But that premise may be incorrect. If the summer arrives and the program is facing a shutdown, Mr. Obama could invoke the provision to ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to keep it going.

Several executive branch officials said the administration had not been studying that option and expressed doubt that Mr. Obama would take such a step, or that the Surveillance Court would agree to it if he tried. Still, the mere existence of a potential way for the program to keep going without congressional action could recast the debate.

Among other things, it could dampen any sense of solace felt by privacy advocates who supported the bill, the U.S.A. Freedom Act, and its revisions of the bulk data program, but who believed that if Congress remained gridlocked, the program was certain to disappear.

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