Government Releasing Surveillance Doc Figures Annually

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said on Friday that each year, the Intelligence Community (IC) will release figures showing the total number of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders and national security letters issued during the prior twelve-month period, and the number of targets affected by those orders. These court orders and letters are tools authorized by the Patriot Act that allow government agencies to pursue individuals suspected of terrorism and espionage.

The announcement arrives after President Obama responded to the initial NSA aftermath by directing the IC to declassify and make public as much information as possible about certain sensitive U.S. Government surveillance programs. The move is to make government surveillance more transparent to the American people without spilling too much information to watchful enemies of the state.

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"Our ability to discuss these activities is limited by our need to protect intelligence sources and methods," Clapper said. "FISA and national security letters are an important part of our effort to keep the nation and its citizens safe, and disclosing more detailed information about how they are used and to whom they are directed can obviously help our enemies avoid detection."

The IC will pull information from orders placed within five categories: FISA orders based on probable cause (Titles I and III of FISA, and sections 703 and 704); Section 702 of FISA; FISA Business Records (Title V of FISA); FISA Pen Register/Trap and Trace ( Title IV of FISA); and National Security Letters issued pursuant to 12 U.S.C. § 3414(a)(5), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681u(a) and (b), 15 U.S.C. § 1681v, and 18 U.S.C. § 2709.

These reports will actually be published on Tumblr of all places, a community website that was established at the request of President Obama. Clapper said it was designed to provide immediate, ongoing and direct access to "factual information related to the lawful foreign surveillance activities carried out by the U.S. Intelligence Community". Other unclassified information related to foreign intelligence surveillance activities are also available.

Last week in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the NSA released three partially redacted opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that detailed concerns about how the NSA was collecting data. The court documents previously surfaced in the hands of the Washington Post who reported that the agency violated the Fourth Amendment nearly 3,000 times in a 12 month period.

Judges claimed that the NSA misled them numerous times about the scope of the agency's email collection program that is supposed to gather only emails regarding foreigners, and not from Americans unrelated to terrorism. The agency was supposedly restricted from using domestic emails, and required to destroy the records after two years. The NSA claimed the unintentional collection was a byproduct of scooping up chunks of Internet traffic connected to terror suspects.

A previous disclosure by Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA had amassed a huge data base of phone-related "metadata". This consisted of most of the phone calls made within the United States: the number of the sender and the receiver, the date, the time and the duration. NSA analysts were supposedly searching for suspicious numbers.

"Contrary to the government's repeated assurances, NSA had been running queries of the metadata using query terms that did not meet the required standard," the judge wrote.

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Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then, he’s loved all things PC-related and cool gadgets ranging from the New Nintendo 3DS to Android tablets. He is currently a contributor at Digital Trends, writing about everything from computers to how-to content on Windows and Macs to reviews of the latest laptops from HP, Dell, Lenovo, and more. 

  • lordjakian
    Will this move towards transparency do anything for the removal of the gag orders of those companies involved?
  • HEXiT
    utterly pointless... if there farming data and storing it then they are keeping an eye on every 1 not just terrorists. although this is a step towards transparency they should only be targeting people who deserve it so theres no need for fisa to hold millions off emails and communications just in case. then need to dismantle the data farms there making and do it soon.
  • house70
    They lied about the very existence of this program, then they lied about the extent of the surveillance... Pretty much lied about it every step on the way. Does anyone believe those numbers?
    Even if they were true, what purpose would they have? "Yeah, we're still spying on you, but here are some numbers about that..."
  • gm0n3y
    Telling us the volume of spying they are doing isn't really much of a help. I guess they figure that everyone already knows about this so they can claim a small degree of transparency while actually giving no real information.

    The best solution for everyone would just be to strike down the entire Patriot Act. I'm personally willing to accept a small amount of risk (terrorism) in exchange for my privacy.
  • wysir
    This still has nothing to do with any unlawful or homeland data collection.
  • leoscott
    What we need is a law that sets limits on what can be classified, how long it can be classified and requires anything that doesn't meet those standards to be declassified and immediately available for a Freedom of Information Act request. It should also set time limits with financial penalties on how long the government has to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests.