University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name In re Application of the FBI for an Order Requiring the Production of Tangible Things From [Redacted], FISA Docket BR 13-80 NS-DC-0056
Docket / Court BR 13-80 ( FISC )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) National Security
Special Collection Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- All Matters
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- Telephony Metadata
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
Case Summary
For the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse collection of FISA matters, see our special collection.

On January 17, 2014, the Director of National Intelligence authorized the declassification and public ... read more >
For the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse collection of FISA matters, see our special collection.

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 Roger Vinson on April 25, 2013, authorizing the Section 215 program until July 19, 2013. As usual, this order includes "minimization" procedures that impose a variety of limits on the NSA's use of the telephony metadata. It is currently not possible to compare the minimization procedures in this order to those in the previous order because the primary orders authorizing the program from September 16, 2011 until April 25, 2013 remain classified. The primary order issued on June 22, 2011 is the last available order for purposes of comparison.

The most significant difference between the order in this matter and the June 2011 order is the new authority to query the BR metadata using approved selection terms by manual analyst query or through an automated query process. The automated process queries and returns results to a "corporate store." The corporate store may then be searched by appropriately and adequately trained personnel. The FISC initially approved this automated query process in its November 8, 2012 order in docket number BR 12-178.

Judge Vinson also issued a secondary order on April 25, 2013. That order required Verizon Wireless to produce to the National Security Agency electronic copies of all call detail records or "telephony metadata" created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad or wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.

On July 8, 2013, the Electronic Privacy Information Center ("EPIC") petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus and prohibition or, in the alternative, a writ of certiorari with respect to the secondary order. EPIC claimed in particular that the FISC exceeded its statutory authority under Section 215 when it issued the order. Under that section, the "tangible things" sought must be "relevant" to an authorized investigation. EPIC argued that it was unlikely that all of Verizon's call records (the subject of the secondary order) could be relevant to an authorized investigation under Section 215. The Supreme Court denied EPIC's petition on November 18, 2013.

The FISC order in this matter was succeeded by BR 13-109, NS-DC-0017 in this Clearinghouse.

Jessica Kincaid - 08/04/2014
Brian Tengel - 02/18/2015

compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Constitutional Clause
Unreasonable search and seizure
Content of Injunction
Warrant/order for search or seizure
Records Disclosure
Search policies
Terrorism/Post 9-11 issues
Plaintiff Type
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Causes of Action FISA Title V order (PATRIOT Act § 215, business records or other tangible things), 50 U.S.C. §§ 1861-1862
Plaintiff Description U.S. Government, proceeding by an application by the FBI, on behalf of the NSA.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
FISA Order Allowing Surveillance
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2013 - 2013
Filing Year 2013
Case Closing Year 2013
Case Ongoing No
13-58 (U.S. Supreme Court)
NS-DC-0056-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/18/2013
Source: Supreme Court website
General Documents
Brief of Amici Curiae Professors James E. Pfander and Stephen I. Vladeck in Support of Petitioner
NS-DC-0056-0009.pdf | Detail
Brief of Amicus Curiae Cato Institute in Support of Petitioner
NS-DC-0056-0010.pdf | Detail
Primary Order (2013 WL 5460137) (FISC)
NS-DC-0056-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/25/2013
Source: ACLU
Secondary Order (FISC)
NS-DC-0056-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/25/2013
Source: ACLU
Secondary Order (FISC)
NS-DC-0056-0011.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/25/2013
Petition for a Writ of Mandamus and Prohibition, or a Writ of Certiorari
NS-DC-0056-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/08/2013
Brief of Amicus Curiae Professors of Information Privacy And Surveillance Law in Support of Petitioner
NS-DC-0056-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/09/2013
Amicus Curiae Brief of Former Members of the Church Committee and Law Professors in Support of Petitioners
NS-DC-0056-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/12/2013
Recent Decision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
NS-DC-0056-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/07/2013
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Brief for the United States in Opposition
NS-DC-0056-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/11/2013
Reply to Brief of the United States in Opposition
NS-DC-0056-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/28/2013
Judges Vinson, Roger (FISC)
NS-DC-0056-0001 | NS-DC-0056-0002 | NS-DC-0056-0011
Other Lawyers Bamzai, Aditya (District of Columbia)
Barnett, Randy (District of Columbia)
Borgia, Michael T. (District of Columbia)
Brody, David (District of Columbia)
Butler, Alan (District of Columbia)
NS-DC-0056-0003 | NS-DC-0056-0006
Callahan, Mary Ellen (District of Columbia)
NS-DC-0056-0009 | NS-DC-0056-9000
Carlin, John P. (District of Columbia)
Cate, Fred H. (Indiana)
Chemerinsky, Erwin (California)
Donohue, Laura (Maryland)
Harper, James W. (District of Columbia)
Harrison, Lindsay C (District of Columbia)
Jacobs, David (District of Columbia)
NS-DC-0056-0003 | NS-DC-0056-0006
Rotenberg, Marc (District of Columbia)
NS-DC-0056-0003 | NS-DC-0056-0004 | NS-DC-0056-0006 | NS-DC-0056-9000
Smith, Jeffrey Michael (District of Columbia)
Verrilli, Donald B. Jr. (District of Columbia)
NS-DC-0056-0005 | NS-DC-0056-9000
Vladeck, Stephen I (District of Columbia)

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -