Documents filed on Monday indicate the National Security Agency acted on the orders of former President George W. Bush and without court approval after 9/11 when it began gathering enormous amounts of data in a dragnet email sweep.
In a 28-page court filing
released by the Justice Department, government lawyers acknowledged that the counterterrorism Internet program, in conjunction with a similar gathering of telephone metadata, operated under Bush's authority before being approved in 2004 by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, according to Politico.
"Specifically, the president authorized the NSA to collect metadata related to Internet communications for the purpose of conducting targeted analysis to track" al-Qaida-related networks, a senior NSA official wrote in a previously sealed October 2007 declaration. "Internet metadata is header/router/addressing information, such as the 'to,' 'from,' 'cc,' and 'bcc' lines," Politico reported.
The extent of the government's surveillance program became public last June when NSA contractor Eric Snowden leaked
a top-secret report outlining details of the program.
In light of concerns raised about the legality of the surveillance program following Snowden's leak, the Director of National Intelligence in December declassified eight documents
which the federal government had used to justify keeping the surveillance program under wraps.
Early press reports covered the program's application specific to email, but Bush did not mention the collection of email data when confirming the existence of a government surveillance program
Monday's court filings are part of an ongoing legal dispute over whether pending litigation should require the NSA to retain metadata that ordinarily would have been erased under Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court mandate, Politico reports. A federal judge in San Francisco has, for now, required the NSA to preserve that data.
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