US: Secret court approves further phone tracking

The secret federal court overseeing US wiretapping programs has extended the government's authority to collect US telephone records, the office of the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said late Friday.

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," the statement read.

This disclosure is "consistent with his prior declassification decision and in light of the significant and continuing public interest in the telephony metadata collection program," the statement read.

In mid-August President Barack Obama pledged to overhaul US spy programs amid a debate sparked by the leaks of former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, which revealed vast telephone and Internet surveillance programs.

Obama promised a new era in intelligence with more supervision, transparency and safeguards in the NSA's collection of electronic information.

His administration has however maintained a hard line against the leaking of such information, and is seeking to prosecute Snowden on espionage charges.

After the disclosures Snowden fled to Hong Kong and then to Russia, where he has been granted one year's temporary asylum despite Washington's demands that he be returned. – Sapa-AFP

       

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