Authorities investigating the mass shooting in San Bernardino need Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik‘s phone records. Thanks to the USA Freedom Act inspired by Edward Snowden‘s whistle-blowing, however, investigators can’t access everything they need.
According to the Associated Press, the FBI lost the ability to request five years’ worth of phone records from the NSA on Nov. 29, four days before the shooting took place. That’s when new restrictions on metadata collection went into effect.
“After November 28, 2015, no access to the BR (business record) metadata (phone records) will be permitted for intelligence analysis purposes,” ruled U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman. “Hence, queries of the BR metadata for the purpose of obtaining foreign intelligence information will no longer be permitted.”
Investigators were able to obtain almost two years of records from the phone companies Farook and Malik used during their marriage. However, years of possible evidence prior to Malik’s arrival in the United States is off limits per the recent legislation.
Despite the apparent setback, there’s no indication that the lack of access has hindered the investigation. Nor would FBI Director James Comey say if the recent ruling had detrimentally affected their anti-terrorism efforts.
American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Alex Abdo told the AP, “If this were a planned attack and the program did what they claimed it did at the time, they would have detected this attack. It’s not surprising the bulk-collection program didn’t detect it.”
[h/t Associated Press]
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