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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, the first after the enactment of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, was granted by FISC Judge James B. Zagel on August 19, 2008. 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 the previous order with two exceptions. First, this order lengthened the authorization period to approximately 120 days compared to the previous order (BR 08-07, NS-DC-0039
in this Clearinghouse) that had an authorization period of approximately 60 days. Second, the previous order permitted metadata searches for all telephone numbers that are already the subject of individual FISA warrants (and therefore a judicial finding of probable cause) without additional vetting by the NSA, except that telephone numbers under surveillance pursuant to any certification of the Director of the National intelligence and the Attorney General, pursuant to Section 105B of FISA, as added by PAA, still required additional vetting. This order extends that exception for surveillance pursuant to Sections 702-704 of FISA, as added by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, subjecting such telephone numbers to additional vetting by the NSA.
The authorization expired on December 12, 2008, at 5:00 p.m.
The order in this matter was succeeded by BR 08-13, NS-DC-0011
in this Clearinghouse.Michael Mirdamadi - 02/15/2014