NSA’s phone data collection is legal, does not violate privacy – FISA court

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Published time: September 18, 2013 00:34

Reuters / Andrew Winning

The National Security Agency’s indiscriminate collection of daily telephone data does not invade Americans’ privacy and is lawful despite being authorized by a secret court, a US surveillance court ruled.

The court’s opinion, dated August 29 and made public Tuesday,
stated that the court was aware of the disclosures made by former
NSA contractor Edward Snowden but reaffirmed that the
controversial data collection program falls within the parameters
of the law. Judge Claire Eagan of the US Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Court (also known as the FISA court), the same court
that ruled the NSA may carry out the data collection, wrote the
opinion.

The court concludes that there are facts showing reasonable
grounds to believe that the records sought are relevant to
authorized investigations
,” Eagan stated. She is one of 11
judges serving on the panel.

This court is mindful that this matter comes before it at a
time when unprecedented disclosures have been made about this and
other highly sensitive programs designed to obtain foreign
intelligence information and carry out counter-terrorism
investigations
,” she continued in a veiled reference to
Snowden.

The Guardian newspaper first published the existence of the phone
data collection program in June. The revelations are reportedly
the first of thousands of pages that are still in the process of
being released to the public.

The program in question stores “metadata,” including numbers
called, as well as the time and length of calls dating back as
far as seven years. US officials claim the metadata harvesting
excludes the names of the callers and the content of the
interaction.

Reuters / Pawel Kopczynski

Earlier this week, FISA court Judge Dennis F. Saylor ordered the
White House to declassify more of the surveillance court’s
decisions, specifically under Section 215 of the Patriot Act,
which grants the government broad powers to monitor American
citizens. The ruling comes in response to a suit filed by the
American Civil Liberties Union, and calls on the White house to
release the decisions by October 4.

The unauthorized disclosure in June 2013 of a Section
215 order, and government statements in response to that
disclosure, have endangered considerable public interest and
debate about Section 215
,” Saylor wrote. “Publication of
FISC opinions relating to this opinion would contribute to an
informed debate
.”

The only phone company known to be turning over data to the NSA
is Verizon, although internet companies including Facebook,
Google, and Microsoft are legally required to supply data as
well.

Each of the 11 judges, and another three who sit on FISA’s Court
of Review, are required each year to disclose their income and
financial investments. In the years since the phone collection
was authorized, multiple judges have admitted to owning stock in
the very telecommunications giant that the government extracts
data from.

Judge Thomas F. Hogan, appointed to the FISA court in 2009,
disclosed between $15,000 and $50,000 in stock with both AT&T
and Verizon. At least two other judges admitted similar
investments.

Copyright: RT