According to a letter sent to leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee from Judge Reggie Walton of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), Verizon and other companies have not fought orders to turn over records on all of their customers. Basically Judge Walton is saying that these companies have shown little to no resistance when it comes to government orders seeking information on their customers. Details about the letter were obtained by The Hill.
In his letter Walton claims that "no telephone company or other service provider" has ever resisted a court order under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. The mobile phone data being collected by the National Security Agency and the FBI was detailed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who is now staying in Russia.
It is still unclear what other information the NSA might be collecting under Section 215 and it has caused a number of technology companies and service providers to try and assure customers that their private information is safe. Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft issued statements saying they regularly resist overly broad orders and fight for their customers' privacy rights. Verizon also said that it "continually takes steps to safeguard its customers' privacy" but that when it is required to comply with legal orders it does so.
Judge Walton's letter also acknowledges that Yahoo fought a FISC order under the Protect America Act in 2007, but the decision on that order remains classified.
Google and Microsoft have filed motions with the FISC seeking permission to declassify how many users have been affected by the surveillance orders. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have also filed legal requests for more transparency.
Walton's letter also explains how FISC judges review surveillance requests from the government; while he admits that the court rarely rejects government requests, it often requires changes to the government's surveillance actions. ACLU deputy legal director tells The Hill that Walton's letter shows the legal process for surveillance orders is "fundamentally broken."
"The mechanisms that were meant to serve as checks against abuse remain entirely hypothetical, but the dragnet surveillance programs that have been exposed over the last few weeks are a very real and direct result of this systemic failure," he said in a statement.
Source: The Hill