FISA Court Orders Being Withheld on NSA Data Collection

The Paralegal Resource
January 22, 2014 — 673 views  
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The NSA's data collection stint created quite a stir when it was revealed, although its defenders repeatedly claimed that there wasn't a single instance where the NSA had abused the information, despite the fact that Edward Snowden had managed to get access to crucial data that was unauthorized. Despite all this, is it even justified to conduct a program that secretly collects data from individuals?

The Disclosure Lawsuit

The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) had filed a Freedom of Information lawsuit, to reveal the surveillance activities performed by the NSA as a part of the Patriot Act. A US attorney told the ACLU last week that certain records would have to be withheld by the government. The attorney informed that the government can't specify the exact number of disclosure documents that are being withheld, as the number is classified.

The decision, in light of the revelations made by Edward Snowden, has begun to raise suspicions in the ACLU that the government is still hiding its surveillance activities, keeping the public in the dark. The ACLU attorney said that the government's documents are yet to disclose a CIA program that maintained records of money transfers. The attorney also said that the lawsuit filed by ACLU only covers surveillance under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, and the surveillance concerning individual suspicion are already excluded from it. The NSA also conducts other data collection programs as a part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act from 1978, an updated law from 2008, and an executive order, 12333, which came into effect three decades ago. All these don't come under the lawsuit filed by ACLU.

As a result of lawsuits filed by many civil liberty organizations, the National Intelligence director posts the documents on Tumblr, without openly declaring it. One such disclosure that happened recently saw 24 documents which detailed around the reauthorizations of record collections from the FISA court. The release was the final disclosure as per the ACLU lawsuit terms. The documents from 2006, which was when the program first got authorization from the FISA court, has the court stipulating, in the footnote, that it understands that the NSA expects that it continues to provide about three phone numbers every day to the FBI. If this were true, it is estimated that the FBI would have been given about 13,203 telephone numbers by the NSA in a bulk collection program that lasted for 12 years.

The Paralegal Resource