Released FISA Court document raises Fourth Amendment issues
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Far from just passively collecting long lists of telephone numbers, U.S. spy agencies actively worked to intercept communications by tapping into fiber-optic cables, going well beyond the bounds of programs authorized by a secret intelligence court.
The revelations came this week, as intelligence officials released a previously classified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Activities court ruling confirming what had already been leaked via other sources — that the government is spying on Americans with no connection to terrorism. The document shows that the NSA acquires more than 250 million internet communications each year.
“The court is troubled that the government’s revelations regarding the NSA’s acquisition of Internet transactions mark the third instance in less than three years in which the government has disclosed substantial misrepresentation regarding the scope of a major collection program … Contrary to the government’s repeated assurances, NSA had been routinely running queries of the metadata using querying terms that did not meet the required standard for querying,” the 2011 FISA Court ruling says.
“The Court concluded that this requirement had been ‘so frequently and systematically violated that it can be fairly said that this critical element of the overall … regime has never functioned effectively.”
The ruling shows that “the government for the first time advised the Court that the volume and nature of the information it has been collection is fundamentally different from what the Court has been led to believe.”
The court concluded that at least parts of the data-collection program violate privacy protections guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.
The release of the ruling confirmed that the NSA’s domestic snooping needs more oversight, Sen. Mark Udall said in a statement:
“I am glad the NSA is taking this step at owning its mistakes, but it is also a sign that we can and must do more to protect innocent Americans with no connection to terrorism from being monitored by our government — whether intentionally or not,” Udall said.
Filed under: world news Tagged: | domestic spying, FISA Court, Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, National Security Agency, NSA snooping, Privacy, United States, United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court