In conjunction with President Obama’s press conference today on privacy and surveillance concerns, the White House released a white paper, Bulk Collection of Telephony Metadata Under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.
This white paper explains the Government’s legal basis for an intelligence collection program under which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) obtains court orders directing certain telecommunications service providers to produce telephony metadata in bulk. The bulk metadata is stored, queried and analyzed by the National Security Agency (NSA) for counterterrorism purposes. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (“the FISC” or “the Court”) authorizes this program under the “business records” provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), 50 U.S.C. § 1861, enacted as section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act (Section 215). The Court first authorized the program in 2006, and it has since been renewed thirty-four times under orders issued by fourteen different FISC judges. This paper explains why the telephony metadata collection program, subject to the restrictions imposed by the Court, is consistent with the Constitution and the standards set forth by Congress in Section 215. Because aspects of this program remain classified, there are limits to what can be said publicly about the facts underlying its legal authorization. This paper is an effort to provide as much information as possible to the public concerning the legal authority for this program, consistent with the need to protect national security, including intelligence sources and methods. While this paper summarizes the legal basis for the program, it is not intended to be an exhaustive analysis of the program or the legal arguments or authorities in support of it.
Read the full paper (23 pp.) here. I’ll update this post with links to articles about it as they become available.
Update 1: The Washington Post has a transcript of his opening remarks at the press conference.
Update 2: Read: NSA: 1.6 Percent Of Internet Information ‘Touched’ By Us (Huffington Post), Obama Promises Reform of NSA Spying, But the Devil Will Be in the Details (EFF), ACLU Comment on President Obama’s Proposed Surveillance Reforms , and Obama’s Credibility Trap (emptywheel).