Looks Like Sprint Did Challenge FISC Order For Call Data, Asked If It Was Serious
from the um...are-you-for-real? dept
Last September, we noted that the FISA Court had finally released a heavily redacted version of its attempt to justify the NSA’s use of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act to sweep up phone records on every phone call. It’s noteworthy that this was the first time that the FISC had ever bothered to actually detail why it believed the program was legal, despite approving such bulk collection orders for years. In that ruling last fall (which had been written last July), one of the things that FISC Judge Claire Eagan stated was:
To date, no holder of records who has received an Order to produce bulk telephony metadata has challenged the legality of such an Order. Indeed, no recipient of any Section 215 Order has challenged the legality of such an Order, despite the explicit statutory mechanism for doing so.
We found that to be fairly disappointing that no company had stepped up to challenge these orders. In fact, we noted just last month that an unnamed phone company was the first to challenge the records — but it turns out that’s not true. In fact, it turns out that what Eagan claimed in her ruling isn’t true either.
In some newly declassified documents from the Director of National Intelligence, it’s revealed that Sprint challenged the order, and basically forced the government to reveal the actual legal basis for the request. Sprint isn’t named in the declassified legal filing, but people have confirmed that that’s who it was.
The actual filing is a “Motion for Amended Secondary Order” from the DOJ, in which it’s pretty clear that Sprint basically asked the government “are you fucking serious? you want us to hand over everything?” The motion from the DOJ is basically asking the FISA Court to repeat its original order with a legalese version of “yes, we’re serious.” As Julian Sanchez points out, it seems pretty clear that Sprint basically went back to the government and said could you repeat that, so that we actually know this is for real?
The Washington Post further claims that Sprint had a legal challenge drafted and ready to go, but was eventually persuaded by the DOJ and/or FISC not to go that far. Still, the idea that no one had questioned the legality of these orders doesn’t appear to be accurate. Yes, we could have hoped that Sprint would have gone to greater lengths, but as we were just discussing this morning, the government puts immense pressure (often in the form of lies) on anyone who dares to challenge its ability to spy on everyone.