CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"Court Upbraided N.S.A. on Its Use of Call-Log Data"

From The New York Times:

Intelligence officials released secret documents on Tuesday showing that a judge reprimanded the National Security Agency in 2009 for violating its own procedures and misleading the nation’s intelligence court about how it used the telephone call logs it gathers in the hunt for terrorists.

. . .

Since Mr. Snowden disclosed the program, the agency has said that while it gathers data on billions of calls, it makes only a few hundred queries in the database each year, when it has “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that a telephone number is connected to terrorism.

But the new documents show that the agency also compares each day’s phone call data as it arrives with an “alert list” of thousands of domestic and foreign phone numbers that it has identified as possibly linked to terrorism.

The agency told the court that all the numbers on the alert list had met the legal standard of suspicion, but that was false. In fact, only about 10 percent of 17,800 phone numbers on the alert list in 2009 had met that test, a senior intelligence official said.

In a sharply worded March 2009 ruling, Judge Reggie B. Walton described the N.S.A.’s failure to comply with rules set by the intelligence court, set limits on how it could use the data it had gathered, and accused the agency of repeatedly misinforming the judges.

. . .

A different intelligence court judge, John D. Bates, rebuked the N.S.A. in 2011 for violations in another program and also complained of a pattern of misrepresentation. The 2011 opinion, which made a reference to the 2009 reprimand, was released by intelligence officials last month.

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