Jennifer Valentino-DeVries and Siobhan Gorman report:
The National Security Agency’s ability to gather phone data on millions of Americans hinges on a secret court ruling that redefined a single word: “relevant.”
This change—which specifically enabled the surveillance recently revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden—was made by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a group of judges responsible for making decisions about government surveillance in national-security cases. In classified orders starting in the mid-2000s, the court accepted that “relevant” could be broadened to permit an entire database of records on millions of people, in contrast to a more conservative interpretation widely applied in criminal cases, in which only some of those records would likely be allowed, according to people familiar with the ruling.
Read more on Wall Street Journal.