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U.S. Surveillance Court A Bigger Rubber Stamp Than Chicago City Council

The secretive U.S. Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court did not deny a single government request in 2015 for electronic surveillance orders granted for foreign intelligence purposes, continuing a longstanding trend, a Justice Department document showed.

The court received 1,457 requests last year on behalf of the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for authority to intercept communications, including email and phone calls, according to a Justice Department memo sent to leaders of relevant congressional committees on Friday and seen by Reuters. The court did not reject any of the applications in whole or in part, the memo showed.

The total represented a slight uptick from 2014, when the court received 1,379 applications and rejected none.

The court, which acts behind closed doors, was established in 1978 to handle applications for surveillance warrants against foreign suspects by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies and grew more controversial after 2013 leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The electronic surveillance often is conducted with the assistance of internet and telecommunications companies.

Civil liberties advocates have long derided the court for acting as a "rubber stamp" for government surveillance operations. Government officials have said the Justice Department is careful about its applications and that sometimes orders are modified substantially by the court.

The court modified 80 applications in 2015, a more than fourfold increase from the 19 modifications made in 2014.

The memo also stated that 48,642 national security letter (NSL) requests were made in 2015 by the FBI.

NSLs are a type of subpoena authority used to compel Internet and telecommunications firms to hand over customer data, such as web browsing history, e-mail addresses and subscriber information.

One NSL often contains multiple requests for information, such as a sequence of e-mails believed relevant to an investigation.

The majority of NSL requests, 31,863, made in 2015 sought information on foreigners, regarding a total of 2,053 individuals, the memo stated.

The FBI made 9,418 requests for national security letters in 2015 for information about U.S. citizens and legal immigrants, regarding a total of 3,746 individuals, it showed.

The FBI also made 7,361 NSL requests for only "subscriber information," typically names, addresses and billing records, of Americans and foreigners regarding 3,347 different people.

National security letters have been available as a law enforcement tool since the 1970s, but their frequency and breadth expanded dramatically under the USA Patriot Act enacted shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

They are almost always accompanied by an open-ended gag order issued by the Justice Department barring companies from disclosing the contents of the demand for customer data.

The government also made 142 applications to the surveillance court for access to business records, and it did not deny any of those requests, according to the memo.

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Previously:
* Obama Won't Tell Congress How Many Innocent Americans He's Spying On.

* Ruling Unsealed: National Security Letters Upheld As Constitutional.

* EFF Sues For Secret Court Orders Requiring Tech Companies To Decrypt Users' Communications.

* Trying (And Trying) To Get Records From The 'Most Transparent Administration' Ever.

* EFF Urges Appeals Court To Allow Wikimedia And Others To Fight NSA Surveillance.

* U.S. Government Reveals Breadth Of Requests For Internet Records.

* What's The Evidence That Mass Surveillance Works? Not Much.

* Why The Close Collaboration Between The NSA And AT&T Matters.

* First Library To Support Anonymous Internet Browsing Effort Stops After DHS E-Mail.

* EFF Sues For Records About 'Hemisphere' Phone Call Collection And Drug Enforcement Program.

* Snowden Documentarian Laura Poitras Sues U.S. Government To Uncover Records After Years Of Airport Detentions And Searches.

* Obama Secretly Expanded NSA Spying To Internet.

* Court: NSA Phone Program Illegal.

* The Chicago Connection To The Hidden Intelligence Breakdowns Behind The Mumbai Attacks.

* Human Rights Watch Sues DEA Over Bulk Collection Of American's Telephone Records.

* U.S. Secretly Tracked Billions Of Calls For Decades.

* Amnesty International Joins ACLU, Wikimedia In Lawsuit To Stop Mass Surveillance Program.

* Stop Spying On Wikipedia Users.

* EFF Wins Battle Over Secret Legal Opinions On Government Spying.

* The NSA's "U.S. Corporate Partners."

* I Fight Surveillance.

* Illegal Spying Below.

* Smith vs. Obama.

* EFF Sues NSA Over FOIA.

* Stand Against Spying.

* The NSA Revelations All In One Chart.

* U.S. Supreme Court Limits Cell Phone Searches.

* EFF To Court: There's No Doubt The Government Destroyed NSA Spying Evidence.

* House Committee Puts NSA On Notice Over Encryption Standards.

* Which Tech Companies Help Protect You From Government Data Demands?

* Lawsuit Demands DOJ Release More Secret Surveillance Court Rulings.

* Human Rights Organizations To Foreign Ministers: Stop Spying On Us.

* What The Proposed NSA Reforms Wouldn't Do.

* Technologists Turn On Obama.

* Dear Supreme Court: Set Limits On Cell Phone Searches.

* EFF Fights National Security Letter Demands On Behalf Of Telecom, Internet Company.

* Eighth-Grader Schools The NSA.

* You Know Who Else Collected Metadata? The Stasi.

* Today We Fight Back.

* The Day We Fight Back.

* FAQ: The NSA's Angry Birds.

* Jon Stewart: The Old Hope-A-Dope.

* Four Blatantly False Claims Obama Has Made About NSA Surveillance.

* EFF To DOJ In Lawsuit: Stop Pretending Information Revealed About NSA Over Last Seven Months Is Still A Secret.

* Judge On NSA Case Cites 9/11 Report, But It Doesn't Actually Support His Ruling.

* Edward Snowden's Christmas Message.

* Jon Stewart: Obama Totally Lying About NSA Spying.

* Presidential Panel To NSA: Stop Undermining Encryption.

* The NSA Is Coming To Town.

* 60 Minutes We Can't Get Back.

* Why Care About The NSA?

* NSA Surveillance Drives Writers To Self-Censor.

* Filed: 22 Firsthand Accounts Of How NSA Surveillance Chilled The Right To Association.

* Claim On 'Attacks Thwarted' By NSA Spreads Despite Lack Of Evidence.

* Obama Vs. The World.

* How A Telecom Helped The Government Spy On Me.

* UN Member States Asked To End Unchecked Surveillance.

* Government Standards Agency: Don't Follow Our Encryption Guidelines Because NSA.

* Five More Organizations Join Lawsuit Against NSA.

* A Scandal Of Historic Proportions.

* Item: NSA Briefing.

* The Case Of The Missing NSA Blog Post.

* The NSA Is Out Of Control.

* Patriot Act Author Joins Lawsuit Against NSA.

* Obama's Promises Disappear From Web.

* Why NSA Snooping Is A Bigger Deal In Germany.

* Item: Today's NSA Briefing.

* NSA Briefing: It Just Got Worse (Again).

* Song of the Moment: Party at the NSA.

* It Not Only Can Happen Here, It Is Happening Here.

* What NSA Transparency Looks Like.

* America's Lying About Spying: Worse Than You Think.

* Obama Continues To Lie His Ass Off About The NSA.

* The Surveillance Reforms Obama Supported Before He Was President.

* America's Spying: Worse Than You Think.

* Has The U.S. Government Lied About Its Snooping? Let's Go To The Videotape.

* Who Are We At War With? That's Classified.

* Six Ways Congress May Reform NSA Snooping.

* NSA Says It Can't Search Its Own E-Mails.

* Does The NSA Tap That?

* Obama Explains The Difference Between His Spying And Bush's Spying.

* FAQ: What You Need To Know About The NSA's Surveillance Programs.

* NSA: Responding To This FOIA Would Help "Our Adversaries".

* Fact-Check: The NSA And 9/11.

* The NSA's Black Hole: 5 Things We Still Don't Know About The Agency's Snooping.

* Defenders Of NSA Surveillance Citing Chicago Case Omit Most Of Mumbai Plotter's Story.

* Obama's War On Truth And Transparency.

* ProPublica's Guide To The Best Stories On The Growing Surveillance State.

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See also:
* Jimmy Carter: America's Shameful Human Rights Record.

* James Goodale: Only Nixon Harmed A Free Press More.

* Daniel Ellsberg: Obama Has Committed Impeachable Offenses.

* Paul Steiger: Why Reporters In The U.S. Now Need Protection.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on April 30, 2016


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