Wyden and Udall Statement on the Declassification of FISA Court Opinions on Bulk Collection of Phone Data
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) issued the following statement after the declassification -- as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union -- of more than 1800 pages of previously secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions and other documents on the government’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.
“When the executive branch acknowledged last month that ‘rules, regulations and court-imposed standards’ intended to protect Americans’ privacy had been violated thousands of times each year we said that this confirmation was ‘the tip of a larger iceberg.’ With the documents declassified and released this afternoon by the Director of National Intelligence, the public now has new information about the size and shape of that iceberg. Additional information about these violations was contained in other recently-released court opinions, though some significant information – particularly about violations pertaining to the bulk email records collection program – remains classified.
In addition to providing further information about how bulk phone records collection came under great FISA Court scrutiny due to serious and on-going compliance violations, these documents show that the court actually limited the NSA’s access to its bulk phone records database for much of 2009. The court required the NSA to seek case-by-case approval to access bulk phone records until these compliance violations were addressed. In our judgment, the fact that the FISA Court was able to handle these requests on an individual basis is further evidence that intelligence agencies can get all of the information they genuinely need without engaging in the dragnet surveillance of huge numbers of law-abiding Americans.
We have said before that we have seen no evidence that the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records has provided any intelligence that couldn’t be gathered through less intrusive means and that bulk collection should be ended. These documents provide further evidence that bulk collection is not only a significant threat to the constitutional liberties of Americans, but that it is a needless one.”