Declassified FISC Order Shows Verizon Lost Challenge to NSA’s Mass Surveillance Program

A newly declassified order (via Courthouse News) reveals that the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court affirmed the government's authority to collect phone records, rejecting a challenge to the government from Verizon related to its mass surveillance of Americans' call data.

While the order does not mention Verizon by name, The Washington Post has confirmed that the petition challenging the National Security Agency's demand for call records was filed by Verizon.

Verizon filed its petition in January 2014 as a direct result of U.S. District Judge Richard Leon's December ruling that the NSA program likely violated the Fourth Amendment.

At the time of that ruling, Judge Leon noted: "I cannot imagine a more 'indiscriminate' and 'arbitrary invasion' than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval."

But FISC Judge Rosemary Collyer called Leon's legal analysis "unpersuasive."

"The information [redacted] produces to NSA as part of the telephony metadata program is indistinguishable in nature from the information at issue in Smith and its progeny," Collyer wrote. "It includes dialed and incoming telephone numbers and other numbers pertaining to the placing or routing of calls, as well as the date, time, and duration of calls. It does not include the 'contents' of any communications."

"Judge Leon focused largely on what happens (and what could happen) to the telephony metadata after it has been acquired by the NSA – e.g., how long the metadata could be retained and how the government could analyze it using sophisticated technology," Collyer wrote. "Smith and the Supreme Court's other decisions applying the third-party disclosure principle make clear that this focus is misplaced."

Source: Courthouse News

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