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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.)
This particular Section 215 order was granted by FISC Judge Frederick J. Scullin, Jr. on November 15, 2006. As usual, this order includes "minimization" procedures that impose a variety of limits on the NSA's use of the telephony metadata. The minimization procedures enumerated in this order are the same as in the previous order with a few exceptions. Specifically, this order requires the NSA's Inspector General, General Counsel, and compliance office to review the program at least every 90 days while the previous order (BR 06-08, NS-DC-0031
in this Clearinghouse) only required "periodic" review by those same offices. This order also reflects the FISC's understanding that the NSA will provide on average three telephone numbers per day to the FBI. The previous order stated that the NSA regularly provided only two numbers. Finally, this order removed a provision specifying that the NSA "shall compensate [redacted] for reasonable expenses incurred in providing such tangible things." This provision appeared in the previous two orders.
The authorization expired on February 9, 2007, at 5:00 p.m.
The order in this matter was succeeded by BR 07-04, NS-DC-0033
in this Clearinghouse.Michael Mirdamadi - 02/15/2014
Brian Tengel - 03/25/2015