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Declassified FISA Court Opinion Released – Addresses Legality of Phone Metadata Collection

Ellen NakashimaWashington Post: “A federal surveillance court on Tuesday released a declassified opinion upholding the constitutionality of the National Security Agency’s sweeping collection of billions of Americans’ phone records for counterterrorism purposes. The gathering of “all call detail records” from phone companies is justified as long as the government can show that it is relevant to an authorized investigation into known — and, significantly — unknown terrorists who may be in the United States, the Aug. 29 opinion states… The 29-page opinion signed by Claire V. Eagan, a judge on the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), is the first to be released that addresses the constitutionality of the NSA’s “bulk records” collection of phone data. It is an attempt to address growing criticism about the broad surveillance since its existence was disclosed in June in a document leaked to the Guardian, a British newspaper, by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The program was authorized by the court in 2006 under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, but that was not known until June. In the program, the NSA gathers records of phone calls and their time and duration, but not subscriber names or call content. The opinion was released at Eagan’s will, Justice Department officials said, not at the request of the government or in response to lawsuits from civil liberties groups. Eagan, appointed to the federal bench in Oklahoma by President George W. Bush, is a fairly new member of the FISC.”

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