California Terror Investigators Can’t View NSA Phone Records

The U.S. government's ability to review and analyze five years' worth of telephone records for the married couple blamed in the deadly shootings in California lapsed just four days earlier when the National Security Agency's controversial mass surveillance program was formally shut down.

Under a court order, those historical calling records at the NSA are now off-limits to agents running the FBI terrorism investigation even with a warrant.

Instead, under the new USA Freedom Act, authorities were able to obtain roughly two years' worth of calling records directly from the phone companies of the married couple blamed in the attack. The period covered the entire time that the wife, Tashfeen Malik, lived in the United States, although her husband, Syed Farook, had been here much longer. She moved from Pakistan to the U.S. in July 2014 and married Farook the following month. He was born in Chicago in 1987 and raised in southern California.

FBI Director James Comey declined to say Friday whether the NSA program's shutdown affected the government's terrorism investigation in California.

"I won't answer, because we don't talk about the investigative techniques we use," Comey said. "I'm not going to characterize it."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the FBI was poring through records for the married couple: "This includes things like their foreign travel, their contacts with other individuals, their use of social media," he said. "There are some details of that investigation starting to dribble out, sometimes in garbled form."

Amid questions about whether the NSA phone program was constitutional and under pressure from lawsuits and recommendations by two federal panels, the Obama administration agreed to end it. It had secretly collected the daily calling records -- but not contents of conversations -- for most Americans, including those never suspected of any crime, since at least 2006. Investigators could see who...

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