This Secret Court Opinion Reveals Mystery Tech Firm Challenged NSA Surveillance Order

A previously secret document we released today shows that in 2014, an internet company challenged government surveillance demands issued under a controversial spying law — the first time we’ve ever learned of a case like this.

The document is an opinion issued by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The government was forced to turn it over to the ACLU in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking records on spying under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Redactions in the document make it impossible to tell details like which company filed the action or exactly what kind of data the government was after. But the anonymous tech company that brought this challenge should be commended for defending its users’ privacy, and other companies must do the same by fighting for critical reforms to Section 702 in the courts and in Congress.

Under the law, service providers are required to facilitate the government’s warrantless surveillance of Americans’ international communications. If a provider seeks to challenge the government’s demand for private data or assistance acquiring that data, it must bring its challenge before the secret court.

In the nearly 10-year history of the law, this is the first time it’s been made public that a company refused to comply with the government’s directives requiring it to turn over users’ private data under Section 702.

The company’s challenge appears to have been tied to an “expansion” of Section 702 surveillance, though the details of that expanded surveillance remain redacted in the opinion. Despite the company’s arguments that the surveillance was unlawful, the court ultimately ordered the provider to comply with the directives.

Section 702 is set to expire this year, and the debate over reauthorization is already underway. This company’s challenge to the government’s warrantless spying under Section 702 underscores just how controversial this mass surveillance program really is, and why it must be significantly reformed.

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The FISA Court was originally designed to protect Americans' privacy and constitutional following the congressional Church Committee Reports. This court was designed to prevent CoinTelPro tactics, blacklisting and dragnet practices.

It's time to totally abolish this unconstitutional court. American citizens and non-citizens have guaranteed constitutional rights on U.S. soil and U.S. territories. This has had the opposite result of what it was created for.


Nicely put.


"American citizens and non-citizens have guaranteed constitutional rights on U.S. soil and U.S. territories." Right... but these people are not on US soil, 702 deals specifically with FOREIGN COMMUNICATIONS... nor are they citizens... so no, in fact, they literally DO NOT have guaranteed constitutional rights, ESPECIALLY not 4th amendment right to a warrant. The only protections foreigners have is by the rights and limitations built into 702 itself.


CoIntelPro -- the Co is for Counter. CoinTelPro sounds like an alternate nickname of "RedBoxChiliPepper" Brad Carter.


Per the Bill of rights, the people of the USA have the same right to privacy and free speech no matter whether they are speaking to another resident of the USA or someone in another country. When spying on communications between USA residents and foreigners is widespread and indiscriminate it greatly impacts the privacy and free speech rights of the people of the USA, not just the foreigners.


Where is the FISA court to regulate tech companies like Facebook, amazon, eBay, Snapchat, instagram and the like? These companies routinely capture, collate, and analyze user data. For example, Amazon makes lists of what you buy then apples algorithms to the data and sells it to third parties. This data tells the third party all of your purchasing history and likelyhood of future purchases and what they might be. Credit card companies like Visa do the same thing. They own your data because you accepted their user agreement by using the site.

The government should be focused on freedom from unwanted data collection. Almost all people click "accept" when prompted by electronic legal pop up. These contracts often take any rights away from the user. However, in order to access the site or data you must accept these terms without negotiation. This is illegal and the telecom companies lawyers know it. They just bank on you always clicking accept and then having some judge tell you that your clicking accept was a valid contract.
By the way the judges campaign was probably financed by internet telecoms...


It isn’t like it is short stints either. 2 years of harassment and “surveillance”. All it takes is for someone to say that you are a terrorist for it to he justified to completely remove your rights.

Ricardo Ali Fer...

The tax payer funded torture programs going back to the post WWII mind control days were kept secret. That is why every generation learns over again that torture yields nothing. The ACLU needs to get to the truth about every torture activity the tax payers have been involved with and the uselessness of these torture programs so we can stop the torture treadmill.


702 turns your home into a Black Site.


Ladies and Gentlemen, we have completely lost control of our government. They have Departments, Agencies and Programs that are pretty much allowed to do whatever they want. Areas we know nothing about. They have their own assassins, terrorists, secret soldiers and organizations at their disposal to do whatever they wish. What is the answer??? How does most countries get rid of their corrupt leaders ????


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