A (redacted) FISA court opinion released yesterday by the US government has shown that in 2011, a judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) found that for three years, the NSA has been annually siphoning “tens of thousands of wholly domestic communications, and tens of thousands of non-target communications of persons who have little or no relationship to the target but who are protected under the Fourth Amendment.”
Judge John Bates, who was at the time the chief judge of the FISC, has marked that “the Court is troubled that the government’s revelations regarding the NSA’s acquisition of internet transactions mark the third instance in less than three years in which the government has disclosed a substantial misrepresentation regarding the scope of a major collection program.”
He also pointed out that NSA agents have repeatedly misrepresented the volume and nature of the information it has been collecting, that the NSA’s “minimization procedures” do not meet set requirements with respect to retention, and that its targeting and minimization procedures are inconsistent with the requirements of the Fourth Amendment.
Nevertheless, the court effectively gave the NSA just a small slap on the hand and simply said “make sure to redress the situation and carry on”, which they did.
Since then (and we don’t have the numbers for 2013 yet), every following FISA request has been approved (see here for the statistics).
This particular FISA court opinion has been made public following a FOIA lawsuit launched by the Electronic Frontier Foundation over a year ago, and the organization knew what they were asking for only because US Senator Ron Wyden managed to make the government declassify just the simple fact that the FISC had ruled that the NSA had violated the Fourth Amendment.