NEW YORK – The government today declassified 14 documents relating to legal violations by the NSA’s spying program. The documents were released pursuant to an agreement in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in May 2011. The ACLU’s FOIA request seeks documents related to the government’s use and interpretation of the Patriot Act’s Section 215.
“These documents show that the NSA repeatedly violated court-imposed limits on its surveillance powers, and they confirm that the agency simply cannot be trusted with such sweeping authority,” said Alex Abdo, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “The abuses revealed in these documents are alarming but also predictable. These violations are the inevitable result of allowing the NSA to assemble a vast database of sensitive information about every American. The documents provide further evidence that secret and one-sided judicial review is not an adequate check on the NSA’s surveillance practices. The so-called ‘compliance incidents’ are troubling, but this is a program that should never have been authorized to begin with. The NSA should end the bulk collection of information about Americans.”
Yesterday in Washington, Abdo and ACLU Legislative Counsel Michelle Richardson met with members of a group appointed by the Obama administration to review surveillance policies with the stated purpose of ensuring that national security needs are properly balanced with civil liberties.
The ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the NSA’s mass phone records collection program. Oral argument in the case is scheduled for November 1 in New York.
The documents turned over today, which include opinions and orders from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, were also released to the Electronic Frontier Foundation under a separate FOIA request.
Information on the ACLU’s Section 215 FOIA lawsuit is at: