The formerly secret order was unveiled along with other documents by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. as top Obama administration officials were preparing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing on oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
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The Obama administration declassified government documents related to NSA collection of telephone metadata records on Wednesday.
The primary court order sets forth the government’s privacy safeguards for the National Security Agency’s program to collect the bulk phone call detail records of millions of Americans. The order, signed by a judge from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, does not give a detailed explanation of the legal rationale for the program.
Rather, it is an apparent effort by the administration to allay privacy concerns raised by the leaking of a secondary court order by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that documented the NSA’s program to collect “all call detail records” of phone calls from U.S. phone companies for counterterrorism purposes.
According to the order released Wednesday, the court found that there were “reasonable grounds to believe that the [records sought] are relevant to authorized investigations being conducted by the FBI . . . to protect against international terrorism.”
Although no company names appear on the heavily redacted court order, senior U.S. officials said it was issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to a subsidiary of Verizon in April. Officials described it as the formal order underlying the directive that was disclosed in June by Snowden, who is accused of leaking classified information about surveillance programs.
The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity before the order was released because they were not authorized to speak publicly, expressed hope that the document would shed light on how the U.S. government obtains communications records under FISA and the restrictions placed on surveillance programs.
The order from April covers the same length of time as the order previously disclosed by Snowden. Officials have said the Justice Department seeks renewal for the bulk-collection orders every 90 days.
The formerly “top secret” 17-page order, redacted to remove any information about the company providing the records or the target of the investigation, was originally scheduled to be declassified in April 2038. It demands “all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by [redacted].” A footnote specifies that “telephone metadata does not include the substantive content of any communication . . . or the name, address, or financial information of a subscriber or customer.”
The order notes that the NSA must “strictly adhere” to “minimization” procedures to protect the privacy of U.S. persons, for example, by allowing only authorized personnel to have access to the data.
Read the other pages here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/governments-secret-order-to-verizon-to-be-unveiled-at-senate-hearing/2013/07/31/233fdd3a-f9cf-11e2-a369-d1954abcb7e3_story.html