Tags: NSA | National Security Agency | Data | 2007

NSA Gathered Intelligence Prior to Act in 2007

By    |   Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015 02:54 PM

For months before Congress authorized the mass collection of foreigners' telephone and email communications by passing the Protect America Act in 2007, the National Security Agency (NSA) already was hard at work, electronically scooping up and analyzing data, acting under the authority of a secret court.

The New York Times reports that Judge Robert Vinson, who was on the top secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA), issued two rulings on May 31 and Aug. 2, 2007, based on a very broad interpretation of the federal Patriot Act which gave the NSA its warrantless snooping powers.

The documents, obtained by the Times under the Freedom of Information Act, "brought into public view a previously unknown example of how the surveillance court, which hears arguments only from the government before issuing secret rulings, sometimes accepts novel interpretations of the law to bless government requests for spying powers," the Times notes.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), for over a decade, tracked phone calls from American phones to foreign countries, causing Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to write to Attorney General Eric Holder, "I am deeply concerned about this kind of suspicionless intrusion into American’s privacy in any context, but it is particularly troubling when done for routine criminal investigations."

Vinson's action allowed the NSA to conduct surveillance on specific targets prior to receiving court approval, which the NSA would seek later, the Times reports, citing a "roving wiretap authority" which Congress allowed the FBI to use to track suspects who switched phones, and informed the court after surveillance was underway.

"Specifically, [Vinson] approved continued surveillance on a long list of accounts that were already under watch, while signing off on a process that allowed the NSA to systematically begin monitoring new phone numbers and email addresses without waiting for judicial approval," the Times notes.

The surveillance was brought to light when former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 revealed that FISA interpreted Article 215 of the Patriot Act to allow the mass collection of Americans' phone calls in.

Vinson wrote, "It is appropriate to grant the government as much latitude in initiating surveillance as the statute can reasonably be construed to permit," the Times reports.

Leahy has proposed the U.S.A. Freedom Act which would limit the NSA's actions with an independent FISA advocate, oversight and more stringent standards for collecting phone information.

Congress is expected to take action before June, when Section 215 of the Patriot Act expires, the New Yorker reports.

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For months before Congress authorized the mass collection of foreigners' telephone and email communications by passing the Protect America Act in 2007, the National Security Agency (NSA) already was hard at work, electronically scooping up and analyzing data.
NSA, National Security Agency, Data, 2007
415
2015-54-27
Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015 02:54 PM
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