Read

Search form

Justice Department Withholds FISA Court Orders on NSA's Bulk Collection of Data

Justice Department Withholds FISA Court Orders on NSA's Bulk Collection of Data
Wed, 1/22/2014 - by Spencer Ackerman
This article originally appeared on The Guardian

The Justice Department is withholding documents related to the bulk collection of Americans’ data from a transparency lawsuit launched by the American Civil Liberties Union.

U.S. attorney Preet Bharara of the southern district of New York informed the ACLU in a Friday letter that the government would not turn over “certain other” records from a secret surveillance court, which are being “withheld in full” from a Freedom of Information Act suit the civil liberties group filed to shed light on bulk surveillance activities performed under the Patriot Act.

The decision to keep some of the records secret, in the thick of Edward Snowden’s revelations, has raised suspicions within the ACLU that the government continues to hide bulk surveillance activities from the public, despite U.S. president Barack Obama’s Friday concession that controversial National Security Agency programs have “never been subject to vigorous public debate.”

The ACLU lawsuit, like others filed by civil liberties groups, has resulted in a trove of documents from the so-called Fisa court detailing the scope, authorizations and, in some cases, violations surrounding NSA surveillance ostensibly occurring under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. The director of national intelligence now posts the released documents to a Tumblr page, usually without revealing that the disclosures were spurred by lawsuits.

The latest such disclosure happened Friday with the release of 24 documents, mostly detailing Fisa court reauthorizations of the bulk phone records collection first reported by the Guardian thanks to leaks from whistleblower Snowden.

Among the information disclosed in the documents, which date back to 2006 – the first year in which the program received authorization from the Fisa court at all – is the footnoted stipulation that the court “understands that NSA expects it will continue to provide, on average, approximately 3 telephone numbers per day to the FBI”.

If true – the footnote only appears in pre-2009 court reauthorizations – the estimate suggests the NSA has given the FBI approximately 13,203 phone numbers based on the 12-year-old domestic bulk phone data program.

In his letter, written on the day Obama gave a long-awaited speech on surveillance that pledged additional transparency, Bhahara said that Friday’s release will be the last disclosure under the terms of the ACLU’s lawsuit.

“As discussed by telephone this morning, the government in fact has processed all of the remaining FISC Orders responsive to the FOIA request in this case that relate to bulk collection, regardless of whether the order contains any additions and/or adjustments to the implementation procedures, minimization procedures, and/or reporting requirements set out in other FISC orders,” the U.S. attorney wrote.

“The government cannot specify the total number of documents withheld in full from this final set of responsive documents because the number itself is classified."

Alexander Abdo, an ACLU attorney, noted that the government’s bulk surveillance disclosures have yet to include, among other efforts, a reported CIA program to collect international money transfers in bulk, revealed in November by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

“It appears that the government is concealing the existence of other bulk collection programs under the Patriot Act, such as the CIA’s reported collection of our financial records,” Abdo said.

“In other words, on the same day that President Obama recognized the need for a vigorous debate about bulk collection, the government appears to be hiding the ball. We can't have the public debate that President Obama wants without the facts that his agencies are hiding.”

Abdo said that the scope of the ACLU’s disclosure lawsuit only concerned surveillance efforts under Section 215 of the Patriot Act and that surveillance authorizations containing individualized suspicion were already excluded.

The NSA conducts other bulk data collection under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, an update to that law in 2008, and under a three-decade-old executive order known as 12333, all of which are outside the terms of the ACLU’s lawsuit.

Bharara's office routed a request for comment back through the Justice Department, which has yet to respond.

Originally published by The Guardian

Add new comment

Sign Up

Article Tabs

carbon emissions, Pakistan coal plants, Pakistan coal generation, Pakistan energy policy

On its projected track, Pakistan will generate a total capacity of over 23,000 megawatts of electricity from coal in the next few years to overcome its steep energy requirements.

student loans, student debt, college debt, Student Loan Asset Backed Securities, subprime mortgage securities, collateralized debt, Federal Family Education Loan Program, Student Income Loans, Student Income Loans

A crucial difference between the subprime debt bubble and the student debt bubble is that the properties that comprised subprime mortgage securities served as collateral to the mortgage debt.

DiEM25, austerity policies, Brexit, Lexit, Democracy in Europe Movement, Grexit

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis responds to his critics and lays out DiEM25’s plan for resisting within the European Union.

Five Star Movement, Beppe Grillo, anti-corruption movement, populist politics, Euro-skeptic party, Italian political corruption, Silvio Berlusconi, Virginia Raggi, Chiara Appendino

The transparency and political openness that helped the 5 Star Movement rise to power must now bring the party's current and future proposals to the forefront if it hopes to achieve any lasting change.

Occupy Wall Street, rising inequality, park occupations, financialization, debt, David Graeber, Occupy legacy, social protests, economic justice, Jeremy Corbyn

Five years after Occupy, organizer and anthropologist David Graeber speaks to ROAR about the power of finance, the history of inequality and the legacy of the movement.

Wells Fargo crimes, Wells Fargo accounts scam, Wells Fargo foreclosures, mortgage-backed securities, subprime loans, Wall Street crimes, John Stumpf

Despite all of the fines paid to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Wells Fargo continues to deny any allegations of wrongdoing. Now a former employee is disputing that claim.

Posted 4 days 8 hours ago
blockchain currencies, blockchain technologies, crypto currencies, Bitcoin, Federal Reserve, Bank of England, fractional reserve lending, Central Bank Digital Currency, bank bailouts, bail-ins

Central Bank Digital Currencies could supplant the money now created by private banks.

Posted 5 days 9 hours ago
occupy, activism, creative activism, alt-right, white supremacy, neo-nazi, bigotry, racism, sexism, white nationalism, white genocide, Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard Bertrand Spencer, Gabriella Coleman, hacktivism, Anonymous, hacker, whistleblower, digital ac

We're introducing a new segment for all those times you think to yourself, "Wow, that's fucked up." First topic: white supremacists.

Posted 3 days 13 hours ago
carbon emissions, Pakistan coal plants, Pakistan coal generation, Pakistan energy policy

On its projected track, Pakistan will generate a total capacity of over 23,000 megawatts of electricity from coal in the next few years to overcome its steep energy requirements.

Posted 1 day 13 hours ago
Five Star Movement, Beppe Grillo, anti-corruption movement, populist politics, Euro-skeptic party, Italian political corruption, Silvio Berlusconi, Virginia Raggi, Chiara Appendino

The transparency and political openness that helped the 5 Star Movement rise to power must now bring the party's current and future proposals to the forefront if it hopes to achieve any lasting change.

Posted 2 days 12 hours ago
occupy, activism, creative activism, alt-right, white supremacy, neo-nazi, bigotry, racism, sexism, white nationalism, white genocide, Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard Bertrand Spencer, Gabriella Coleman, hacktivism, Anonymous, hacker, whistleblower, digital ac

We're introducing a new segment for all those times you think to yourself, "Wow, that's fucked up." First topic: white supremacists.

wealth inequality, wealth gap, racial wealth gap, Great Recession, Economic Policy Institute, discrimination

As wages for American workers have stagnated for more than a generation, the income gap between black and white workers has widened, and discrimination is the main reason for the persisting disparity.

Occupy Wall Street, rising inequality, park occupations, financialization, debt, David Graeber, Occupy legacy, social protests, economic justice, Jeremy Corbyn

Five years after Occupy, organizer and anthropologist David Graeber speaks to ROAR about the power of finance, the history of inequality and the legacy of the movement.

tax increment financing, TIF agreements, Michael Phelps, Sagamore Development Corporation, Port Covington plan, Baltimore gentrification, Baltimore development

In Baltimore, activists are urging city officials to move beyond "tax increment financing" that privileges billionaires at public expense.

carbon emissions, Pakistan coal plants, Pakistan coal generation, Pakistan energy policy

On its projected track, Pakistan will generate a total capacity of over 23,000 megawatts of electricity from coal in the next few years to overcome its steep energy requirements.