The secret court ruling behind NSA overreach

Newly released documents from Snowden's cache show how Bush-era FISA court weakened privacy protections

By Natasha Lennard
March 12, 2014 4:52PM (UTC)
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A new tranche of leaks from whistle-blower Edward Snowden's document trove give important context to our understanding of NSA dragnet surveillance. Classified documents from mid-2002 reveal how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court passed a landmark ruling to weaken restrictions on sharing private information about U.S. citizens.

In the wake of 9/11, the surveillance court's "Raw Take" order laid the ground for spy agencies to more easily access and share Americans' communications data.  "The Raw Take order significantly changed that system, documents show, allowing counterterrorism analysts at the NSA, the FBI and the CIA to share unfiltered personal information," wrote Laura Poitras and Charlie Savage in the New York Times. Reporting on the latest revelations, Poitras and Savage note "The files help explain how the court evolved from its original task — approving wiretap requests — to engaging in complex analysis of the law to justify activities like the bulk collection of data about Americans’ emails and phone calls."


Via The Times:

The Raw Take order appears to have been the first substantial demonstration of the court’s willingness after Sept. 11 to reinterpret the law to expand government powers. NSA officials included it as one of three court rulings on an internal timeline of key developments in surveillance law from 1972 to 2010, deeming it a historic event alongside once-secret 2004 and 2006 rulings on bulk email and call data.


Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Cia Edward Snowden Fbi Fisa Fisc Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Nsa Privacy Raw Take Spying Surveillance