U.S. releases more documents on surveillance origins

Director of National Intelligence says President George W. Bush first authorized the collecting of phone and Internet records as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, just after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Associated Press
Dec 21, 2013

The director of national intelligence on Saturday declassified more documents that outline how the National Security Agency was first authorized to start collecting bulk phone and Internet records in the hunt for al-Qaida terrorists and how a court eventually gained oversight of the program, after the Justice Department complied with a federal court order to release its previous legal arguments for keeping the programs secret.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper explained in a statement Saturday that President George W. Bush first authorized the spying in October 2001, as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, just after the Sept. 11 attacks. Bush disclosed the program in 2005. The Terrorist Surveillance Program — which had to be extended every 30-60 days by presidential order — eventually was replaced by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — a law that requires a secret court to OK the bulk collection.

Clapper also released federal court documents from successive intelligence directors arguing to keep the programs secret, after a California judge this fall ordered the administration to declassify whatever details already had been revealed as part of the White House's campaign to justify the NSA surveillance. Former agency contractor Edward Snowden first made the surveillance programs public in leaks to the media.

President Barack Obama hinted Friday he would consider some changes to NSA's bulk collection of Americans' phone records to address the public's concern about privacy. His comments came in a week where a federal judge declared NSA's collection program "unconstitutional," and a presidential advisory panel suggested 46 changes to NSA operations.

The judge said there was little evidence any terror plot had been thwarted by the program, known as Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. The advisory panel recommended continuing the program but requiring a court order for each NSA search of the phone records database, and keeping that database in the hands of a third party — not the government. Obama said he would announce his decisions in January.

"There has never been a comprehensive government release...that wove the whole story together — the timeline of authorizing the programs and the gradual transition to (court) oversight," said Mark Rumold, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group suing the NSA to reveal more about the bulk records programs. "Everybody knew that happened, but this is the first time I've seen the government confirm those twin aspects."

That unexpected windfall of disclosures early Saturday came along with the release of documents outlining why releasing the information would hurt national security. The U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California in the fall had ordered the Obama administration to make public the documents, known as state secrets declarations.

The Justice Department issued the declarations late Friday in two ongoing class action cases: Shubert v. Bush, now known as Shubert v. Obama, on behalf of Verizon customers; and Jewel v. NSA, on behalf of AT&T customers.

Calls to the Justice Department and the director of national intelligence's office were not answered.

"In September, the federal court in the Northern District of California...ordered the government to go back through all the secret ex-parte declarations and declassify and release as much as they could, in light of the Snowden revelations and government confirmations," Rumold said. "So what was released late last night was in response to that court order."

In one such legal argument, former National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair in 2009 told the court that revealing information — including how information was collected, whether specific individuals were being spied upon and what the programs had revealed about al-Qaida — could damage the hunt for terrorists.

"To do so would obviously disclose to our adversaries that we know of their plans and how we may be obtaining information," Blair said. Much of his 27-page response is redacted.

Comments

The Big Dog's back

What? bush started this? Can't be.

Donegan

Bush started a lot of stuff, Stuff you obviously agree with.

deertracker

Yep, and people like you had no problem with it but under this President, it's just awful!!

Contango

Re: "you had no problem with it,"

Nope, not then, now or ever.

But under this POTUS, useful idiots like yourself trust 'im eh?

Pres. Obama: If you like your freedom, you can keep it.

Donegan

Your assumption is wrong, But then again I do not expect much from Obama supporters. I did not approve then as I do not approve now, That would be hypocrisy, Something all Obama worshipers are afflicted with.

JudgeMeNot

Maybe there would have been some resistance to these programs from the democrats?

Contango

"Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged against provisions against danger, real or pretended from abroad."

- James Madison

If the YouTube video of the SWAT team treatment of innocent people in the aftermath of Boston Marathon bombing didn't scare the sh*t outa ya, you must be a useful idiot for tyranny.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4...

deertracker

How about an original thought once in a while?

Contango

Re: "How about an original thought once in a while?"

And that stupid statement was original? lol

Do you even know the reasons for the Revolutionary War, Bambie?

kURTje

Another win for deertracker. Non-veteran lost again.

Contango

Re: "Another (snip)"

DERP.

kURTje

Holidays godda be rough for ya winnie....no friends, empty dwelling & all. Right now we are laughing - too bad you can't.

Contango

Re: "Holidays (snip)"

Derpity derp derp.

Kingsin

I'm generally not much of a conspiratorialist- I know a guy who is fully convinced in the "con-trail" deal to infect all our brains through C-130s flying overhead- or whatever all that nonsense is about- but you have to admit that the days of personal privacy in whatever form are about over. If we continue on the current track, I would say we're within a few short years of drones over American cities, DNA database collection on all citizens (they've already done it to the people in Iraq & Afghanistan), Biometric identification and tracking, etc etc etc.... The scary thing to me is that today's kids will barely blink an eye- heck, they already put out everything to do about themselves on the net, up to and including their selfies. Can't get any more revealing than that. Scary days in which we live IMO.

Contango

Re: "they already put out everything to do about themselves on the net,"

Just read a story this morning about some kid writing on Facebook that his wealthy family was takin' a vaca. They came back two weeks later to a ransacked house.

http://online.wsj.com/news/artic...

Kingsin

Contango, did you catch the story this week (I think Pennsylvania) where they set up the checkpoint and were pulling innocent people over and trying to coerce them into giving a cheek swab for dna? Unbelievable

Contango

Yea, I heard about that tactic only it occurred elsewhere.

I do believe that in some jurisdictions that DNA can be taken for even petty crimes.

J. Edgar Hoover wanted everyone in the U.S. fingerprinted. I guess we're not far from a much ‘improved’ totalitarian system.

Saying: Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they’re not out to get you.

"Atlas Shrugged": Their two major weapons are fear and guilt.

Contango

BTW:

Lost in all this domestic surveillance discussion is the FACT that all this spying on our friends (Germany, Brazil, Israel, et. al) is costing the U.S. billions in overseas business.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2...

Don S

This is all you got to bitch about, when Snowden is still out there making our country unsafe from attack. Snowden is not a whistle blower. He is a thief, a traitor, and a defector of the USA. He seeks protection from our lifetime enemies. All he really deserves is a firing squad. What you all better be concerned about is the security of this country and WHEN the next attack on the USA will be, because it will come, now. Our enemies and terrorists will do their best to make it happen, sense our security has been weakened. Besides, do you think that's all the NSA has to do, is to listen to you calling your mistress or your boy toy?? You got to be friggin kidding me !!!!

Contango

Re: "All he really deserves is a firing squad."

And would you say the same about the anti-Vietnam Berrigan Bros. and Daniel Ellsberg?

Contango

Jake Tapper, CNN:

"I think the American people, honestly, want security over freedom."

Dr. Information

Bush started it, Obama took it to an entirely new level. Hope and change.