Almost Everything About The Bulk Collection Of Phone Data Is Illegal
from the a-simple-explanation dept
We already wrote about the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) and its scathing report as to how the program to collect phone records on pretty much every phone call in the US was both illegal and unconstitutional. However, if you don’t want to get too down in the weeds over why it’s illegal, the absolutely best summary I’ve seen comes from Julian Sanchez and fits into a tweet:
215 allows FBI to get records relevant to an investigation. PCLOB: NSA program fails on "FBI", "records," "relevant" & "investigation."
— Julian Sanchez (@normative) January 23, 2014
215 allows FBI to get records relevant to an investigation. PCLOB: NSA program fails on “FBI”, “records,” “relevant” & “investigation.”
Believe it or not, he’s not even being that glib here. Section 215 is pretty clear on all of those things. It’s just for the FBI, and allows them to get records relevant to a specific investigation. Yet, the program is run by the NSA, which collects the data, instead of the FBI. It is not collecting “records” as intended by the law, and most of those records are irrelevant, and none of this is tied to any particular investigation. I’m reminded of the joke that the Holy Roman Empire wasn’t actually holy, Roman or an empire.
When the law includes four basic conditions, and basically all four of them are not met, the program is beyond illegal. It’s just a farce. It’s kind of amazing that President Obama and other NSA defenders are still arguing that the program is perfectly fine.