FISA Court Agrees To Changes That Limit NSA's Ability To Query Phone Records

from the it's-something dept

While we were mostly disappointed by President Obama’s speech concerning his plans for reforming surveillance efforts, there were a few significant suggestions, with the most major one being a limit from being able to explore “3 hops” down to “2 hops.” That might not sound that big, but it is a pretty big limitation when you dig into the math. Furthermore, he said that there should be a court reviewing each request to query the phone records database. He left open a pretty big loophole, saying that this judicial review could be skipped in a “true emergency,” but it’s still something.

In response, the Justice Department actually went to the FISA Court and filed a motion to revise the current order approving the telephone records collection (under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, sometimes called the “bulk metadata” program), to change it to put in place these restrictions. The FISA Court has now approved that request, and will release a (possibly redacted) version of the order within the next week and a half or so.

This is a small change, but it is still a meaningful change that creates both more oversight and greater limits on how this data can be used. It’s a small step in the right direction.

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Comments on “FISA Court Agrees To Changes That Limit NSA's Ability To Query Phone Records”

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Anonymous Coward says:

there are only two steps really needed

a) to stop the spying altogether

b) disband the FISA court completely because no one sitting on it has had the slightest bit of interest in doing the job they are supposed to be doing, let alone actually doing it!

we are seeing even more evidence of what this complete spying fiasco has brought on. the UK started censoring and blocking the Internet, Sweden is doing the same as are other countries, like France and Ireland. now we have Turkey starting the same thing as well! if it carries on, it needs to lose in it’s bid for joining the EU. if it doesn’t, the whole of that collection of countries can kiss any sort of democracy good bye. it’s sitting on the scales atm, because nothing has been done to protect the people from their own governments. this latest implementation will tip that balance in the direction away from democracy. that will lead to some severe consequences, the like of which the instigators of this whole shebang didn’t foresee or expect! mark my words, we are heading for a total disaster, all starting from one countries need to know what everyone is doing! how fucking ridiculous is that??

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: ...small step in the right direction...

Rather than have the FISA court spend valuable judicial resources rubber stamping each individual request to violate the law, the constitution and spy on Americans, the FISA courts should learn from the USPTO.

Over at the USPTO they throw patent applications into a room full of kittens with stamps affixed to their feet which say PATENT GRANTED.

Anonymous Coward says:


This is pointless. There is only 1 constitutional solution to this problem.

They do not collect records period without a warrant for each damn one!

Let me help everyone out to how these things play down. It is easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission. To change the tide you first go overboard in collecting every damn thing! Then you compromise after getting caught and just have to jump through hoops. The stupid people relax thinking “we showed them” while the NSA just laughs and says… but we are still collecting everything technically so we get what we want anyways and all you ‘impressive’ people only just put another door that opens and closes with a rubber stamp in our way that just delays the information by 1.2 seconds. whoop doo!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

No one runs PR for the NSA. The NSA never thought they would have to talk to the public, so when they had to they found out how much they absolutely suck at it. So they then deferred to Peter King and Mike Rogers who just made themselves look like buffoons. So then they decided to go with a professional in having John Miller do it for them but that sucked too. Meanwhile, Snowden, who has exactly 0 PR experience has show a lot of skill in that arena is showing quickly showing them how to do PR right even without a huge budget to work from.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Gilding a turd

I don’t see this as a ‘step in the right direction’, so much as an attempt to lock in something that an increasing number of people are saying shouldn’t be around in the first place.

This is just an attempt to shift the discussion away from ‘Is this program constitutional?’, over to ‘Does this program have ‘enough’ checks and balances to keep it from being abused?'(ever so conveniently ignoring the constitutional issue entirely).

For crying out loud, the PCLOB absolutely tore every single ‘justification’ for the program to pieces, the panel that was meant to give a canned ‘Everything is fine, nothing to see here’ report instead called out numerous problems with it, and it wasn’t even two weeks ago that someone helpfully summed up the problems with the program is a single sentence:

‘ 215 allows FBI to get records relevant to an investigation. PCLOB: NSA program fails on “FBI”, “records,” “relevant” & “investigation.”
? Julian Sanchez (@normative)

(You’ll notice ‘court approval’ isn’t even mentioned there, because the entire thing fails before it even gets that far)

This isn’t a ‘step in the right direction at all, it’s nothing but smoke and mirrors, the first real ‘step in the right direction’ will be dismantling the program entirely, and charging those responsible for it for their gross violations of the constitution and the rights of the public.

Anonymous Coward says:

He left open a pretty big loophole, saying that this judicial review could be skipped in a “true emergency”

with the NSA everything”s “true emergency”

The FISA Court = Rubber Stamp = zero trust

2 Hops as defined by the NSA and FISA- Suspected terrorist calls someone in the US (the entire country is hop 1) (US Citizen calls someone overseas is Hop 2).

rapnel (profile) says:


How about, how about this – The NSA keeps their fucking mitts OFF of American signals. When law enforcement has a reasonable and articulable suspicion and is granted a warrant that clearly identifies places and things it is clear that the tools at their disposal are adequate to perform their law enforcement activities.

Our terrorism “problem” has morphed into an identity crisis for entire countries – most of which are supposed to be the models for achieving greatness for the human race. not to be confused with arms manufactures and defense contractors pocket money races

Living with concern that what you say, who you speak with and what you do is collected, queryable and actionable is oppression, not protection. Get it fucking right, there’s a lot riding on this.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

I wonder who actually signed that statement?

It couldn’t have been James Clapper, who lied to Congress repeatedly, and has been defending this program with all of his might.

It must have been a stand-in, because Clapper is undoubtedly gnashing his teeth and stomping his feet in frustration.

“They’re taking away all my toys! I want them back!”

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: I wonder who actually signed that statement?

Hardly, it’s playing right into their hands, remember, 215 isn’t even supposed to apply to the NSA at all, only to the FBI, this is just an attempt to lock in the program by making ‘concessions’, which they’ll only bother with as long as people are looking.

Also, remember the ‘court’ involved is the FISA ‘court’, the idea that they’d ever be more than a rubber stamp for the NSA is beyond a joke.

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