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On January 17, 2014, the Director of National Intelligence authorized the declassification and public release of numerous orders approving the National Security Agency's ("NSA") so-called "Bulk Telephony Metadata Program" under Section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 ("FISA"), commonly referred to as Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. Press release available here
Under the program, the NSA has collected records from large telecommunication companies about, apparently, virtually all domestic telephone calls. These records, termed "telephony metadata," include the phone numbers placed and received; the date, time and duration of calls; some location identifiers; and calling card numbers. The records, however, apparently do not include the parties' names, addresses or financial information or the call's content. Once collected, the records are stored for several years and may be queried, used, and disseminated only in accordance with "minimization rules" proposed by the government and approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ("FISC"). The most basic aspect of the minimization rules has been that the metadata records can be queried when there is a reasonable suspicion, based on specific and articulated facts, that the identifier that will be used as the basis for the query is associated with specified foreign terrorist organizations.
The program began under executive authority alone, following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Subsequently, in 2006, the federal government first sought approval of the program from the FISC under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. This Section 215 order must be reviewed and reapproved by the FISC essentially every 90 days. It has been approved dozens of times by many different federal judges, on the FISC, since its initial approval on May 24, 2006 by the FISC. (See BR 06-05, NS-DC-0009
in this Clearinghouse.)
In this specific matter, on September 5, 2006, the Department of Justice filed with the FISC a copy of the standard minimization procedures that govern the NSA's use of telephony metadata. The minimization procedures are derived from the Attorney General Guidelines for FBI National Security Investigations and Foreign Intelligence Collection, effective October 31, 2003 under the direction of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. These minimization procedures seem to be in effect until 2008. The primary order issued in FISA Docket BR 08-08 noted the updated minimization procedures in light of the 2008 revision of the Attorney General's Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations.
Apparently, no other documents related to this docket have been disclosed. This matter does not seem to include any primary orders authorizing continuation of the Section 215 program. Rather, authority for the program during this time period was issued under dockets BR 06-05, NS-DC-0009
and BR 06-08, NS-DC-0031
in this Clearinghouse.Elizabeth Homan - 04/14/2014