DOJ: Surveillance program now court-approved
FISA judge OKs previous warrant-dodging NSA program
IDG News Service - A controversial surveillance program to wiretap telephone and Internet communications in and out of the U.S. will now fall under the jurisdiction of a U.S. court, the Department of Justice said Wednesday.
A judge with the secret U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court on Jan. 10 authorized the U.S. government to wiretap phone or Internet communications involving suspected members of al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations, the DOJ said. The FISA-approved surveillance would replace the Terrorist Surveillance Program at the National Security Agency (NSA), authorized by U.S. President George Bush in 2002 to create wiretaps without court-issued warrants.
The FISA ruling will allow the surveillance program to essentially continue as it has, only with court approval, a senior DOJ official said. Under the NSA program, U.S. agents were allowed to wiretap Internet and telephone communications into and out of the U.S. in which one participant was suspected to be linked to al Qaeda.
Civil liberties groups had protested the NSA program, saying its lack of court oversight violated the U.S. Constitution. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed a lawsuit against AT&T Inc. for allegedly participating in the NSA program, and in August, a U.S. district judge in Michigan ruled the NSA program was illegal.
Bush is "committed to using all lawful tools to protect our nation from the terrorist threat," U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wrote in a Wednesday letter to members of the U.S. Congress. "Although ... the Terrorist Surveillance Program fully complies with the law, the orders the government has obtained will allow the necessary speed and agility while providing substantial advantages," Gonzales wrote.
Bush will not reauthorize the old NSA program when it expires sometime in the next 45 days, the senior DOJ official, who requested anonymity, said Wednesday. But the FISA-authorized program will have the same capability as the old program, the official said.
The FISA court will approve wiretap requests for 90 days at a time, the DOJ official said. The court will have authority to review individual wiretap requests, but the DOJ official declined to provide specific information about how the FISA program will work.
Bush administration officials denied that the FISA court acted to provide political and legal cover for the NSA program, but the DOJ official said the FISA ruling will allow Congress to step back and look at the wiretap program without legal questions hanging over it. The FISA ruling "should take some of the political heat off the debate," the DOJ official said.
The EFF didn't have an immediate comment on the FISA decision.
- Radicati: Cloud Business Email - Market Quadrant 2013 Google was named the top cloud business email provider in a recent report by research firm Radicati. Out of 14 key players, Google...
- Tablets in the Enterprise: A Checklist for Successful Deployment How can you enterprise manage and secure tablets in order to protect corporate data while providing access to the information and applications employees...
- Enterprise Mobility: A Checklist for Secure Containerization The advantages and disadvantages of the multiple approaches to containerization. Learn More>>
- Enterprise File Sync & Share Checklist File sync and share has changed the way people work and collaborate in today's tech-savvy world. Gone are the email roadblocks, clunky FTP...
- Live Webcast LIVE EVENT: 5/7, The End of Data Protection As We Know It. Introducing a Next Generation Data Protection Architecture. Traditional backup is going away, but where does this leave end-users?
- LIVE EVENT: 5/7, The End of Data Protection As We Know It. Introducing a Next Generation Data Protection Architecture. Traditional backup is going away, but where does this leave end-users?
- On-demand webinar: "Mobility Mayhem: Balancing BYOD with Enterprise Security" Check out this on-demand webinar to hear Sophos senior security expert John Shier deep dive into how BYOD impacts your enterprise security strategy... All Security White Papers | Webcasts