Bush administration, Central Security Service (CSS), Domestic Surveillance, First Amendment, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), Fourth Amendment, James Bamford's The Shadow Factory, National Security Agency - NSA, PRISM (surveillance program), Signals intelligence (SIGINT), Surveillance, Terrorist Surveillance Program, United States of Secrets: The Program, Warrantless Surveillance, Whistleblowers
The Terrorist Surveillance Program is an electronic surveillance program implemented by the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks. It was part of the President’s Surveillance Program, which was in turn conducted under the overall umbrella of the “War on Terrorism.” The NSA, a signals intelligence agency, implemented the program to intercept al Qaeda communications overseas where at least one party is “not a U.S. person.”
In 2005 The New York Times disclosed that technical glitches resulted in some of the intercepts including communications which were “purely domestic” in nature, igniting the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy. Later works, such as James Bamford‘s The Shadow Factory, describe how the nature of the domestic surveillance was much, much more widespread than initially disclosed. In a 2011 New Yorker article, former NSA employee Bill Binney said that his colleagues told him that the NSA had begun storing billing and phone records from “everyone in the country.”
The program was named the Terrorist Surveillance Program by the George W. Bush administration in response to the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy following disclosure of the program. This program operated without the judicial oversight mandated by Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Because the technical specifics of the program have not been disclosed, it is unclear if the program is subject to FISA. It is unknown if this is the original name of the program; the term was first used publicly by President Bush in a speech on January 23, 2006.
On June 6, 2013, it was revealed that the Terrorist Surveillance Program was replaced by a new NSA program, referred to by its codeword, PRISM.
PRISM is a system the NSA uses to gain access to the private communications of users of nine popular Internet services. We know that access is governed by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was enacted in 2008. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper “tacitly admitted” PRISM’s existence.
A classified PowerPoint presentation leaked by Edward Snowden states that PRISM enables “collection directly from the servers” of Microsoft, Yahoo, AT&T, Verizon, Google, Facebook and other online companies.
The Times says that major tech companies have systems that “involve access to data under individual FISA requests. And in some cases, the data is transmitted to the government electronically, using a company’s servers.”
Data is “shared after company lawyers have reviewed the FISA request according to company practice. It is not sent automatically or in bulk,” the Times reports. The scheme is “a more secure and efficient way to hand over the data.”
Federal Judge Orders End to Warrantless Wiretapping
On August 17, 2006, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor found that President Bush exceeded his proper authority and that the eavesdropping without warrants violated the First and Fourth Amendment protections of free speech and privacy.
“It was never the intent of the Framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights,” she wrote, in a decision that the White House and Justice Department said they would fight to overturn.
On January 17, 2007, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales informed U.S. Senate leaders by letter that the program would not be reauthorized by the president, but would be “subjected to judicial oversight.” “Any electronic surveillance that was occurring as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program will now be conducted subject to the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,” according to his letter.
Obama Administration Renews NSA Spy Program
Nine months after promising to overhaul the nation’s spy program, President Barack Obama’s deadline to make such changes has been extended for the third time.
According to National Journal, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved a request from the Justice Department to renew the NSA’s Section 215 telephony metadata program, part of the Patriot Act. The program allows the NSA to spy on American citizens by collecting phone records.
The top-secret program was first made public by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, whose revelations forced him to take asylum in Russia.
Machinery for tyranny
In a January speech, Obama promised immediate action that would “scale back” the program. He also said the government would not hold onto the phone records of private Americans it had already been collecting, and that judicial finding would be required before a search is made in the data.
“Congress must ensure that this is the last time the government requests and the court approves the bulk collection of Americans’ records,” Leahy said. “This announcement underscores, once again, that it is time for Congress to enact meaningful reforms to protect individual privacy.”
US Senate fails to move forward on NSA Reform Bill
The U.S. Senate has voted against a bill that would rein in the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone records within the country, possibly killing any NSA reforms. Supporters of the USA Freedom Act, in a Senate vote, failed to get the 60 votes needed to end debate and move toward a final vote on the legislation. Fifty-eight senators voted to end debate, while 42 voted against it.
FISA Court Order Extending NSA Surveillance Operations
This order is now publicly available at the ODNI website, here: Joint Statement from the ODNI and the U.S. DOJ on the Declassification of Renewal of Collection Under Section 501 of the FISA.
The ODNI’s public website dedicated to fostering greater public visibility into the intelligence activities of the Government, at IC ON THE RECORD.
WASHINGTON, DC 20511
December 8, 2014
Joint Statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence
and the Office of the Attorney General on the Declassification of Renewal of Collection Under Section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
Earlier this year in a speech at the Department of Justice, President Obama announced a transition that would end the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata program as it previously existed, and that the government would establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk data. As a first step in that transition, the President directed the Attorney General to work with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to ensure that, absent a true emergency, telephony metadata can only be queried after a judicial finding that there is a reasonable, articulable suspicion that the selection term is associated with an approved international terrorist organization.
The President also directed that the query results must be limited to metadata within two hops of the selection term instead of three. These two changes have been in effect since February 2014.
In addition, the President also directed the Intelligence Community and the Attorney General to develop options for a new approach to match the capabilities and fill gaps that the Section 215 program was designed to address without the government holding this metadata. After carefully considering the available options, the President announced in March that the best path forward is that the government should not hold this data in bulk, and that the data should remain at the telephone companies with a legal mechanism in place that would allow the government to obtain data pursuant to individual orders from the FISC approving the use of specific numbers for such queries. The President also noted that legislation would be required to implement this option, and he has called on Congress to enact this important change.
The Administration welcomes the opportunity to work with the new Congress to implement the changes the President has called for. Given that legislation has not yet been enacted, and given the importance of maintaining the capabilities of the telephony metadata program, the government has sought a 90-day reauthorization of the existing program, as modified by the changes the President directed in January.
Consistent with prior declassification decisions and in light of the significant and continuing public interest in the telephony metadata collection program, DNI James R. Clapper declassified the fact that the government filed an application with the FISC to reauthorize the existing program for 90 days, and that the FISC issued an order approving the government’s application. The order issued on December 4, 2014, expires on February 27, 2015. The Administration is undertaking a declassification review of this most recent court order, and when complete, the ODNI will post the document to its website and icontherecord.tumblr.com.
On January 12, 2015, subsequent to a Freedom of Information Act Request, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General publicly released its September 2012 Report on Activities Under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.
Criticism of the War on Terror addresses the morals, ethics, efficiency, economics, as well as other issues surrounding the War on Terror. It also touches upon criticism against the phrase itself, which was branded as a misnomer. The notion of a “war” against “terrorism” has proven highly contentious, with critics charging that participating governments exploited it to pursue long-standing policy/military objectives, reduce civil liberties, and infringe upon human rights. It is argued that the term war is not appropriate in this context (as in War on Drugs), since there is no identifiable enemy and that it is unlikely international terrorism can be brought to an end by military means.
Other critics, such as Francis Fukuyama, note that “terrorism” is not an enemy, but a tactic: calling it a “war on terror” obscures differences between conflicts such as anti-occupation insurgents and international mujahideen. With a military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and its associated collateral damage Shirley Williams maintains this increases resentment and terrorist threats against the West. Other criticism include United States hypocrisy, media induced hysteria, and that changes in American foreign and security policy have shifted world opinion against the US.
- Hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Strengthening Privacy Rights and National Security: Oversight of FISA Surveillance Programs
- Privacy , Technology & National Security – An Overview of Intelligence Collection — Robert S. Litt, ODNI General Counsel
- DNI Statement on the Collection of Intelligence Pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
- Click here for all IC ON THE RECORD posts relating to Section 702
- IC ON THE RECORD • Section 215 of the Foreign …
- IC ON THE RECORD