It’s not just the number of requests, it’s the scope of them. They’re not demanding records related to particular investigations anymore, they’re demanding huge troves of records on random Americans for data-mining purposes, the same thing Patriot Act co-author Jim Sensenbrenner complained about a few days ago but somehow didn’t foresee in 2001.
Like I said, you might want to re-poll Bush’s numbers.
“That they were using this (provision) to do mass collection of data is definitely the biggest surprise,” said Robert Chesney, a top national security lawyer at the University of Texas Law School. “Most people who followed this closely were not aware they were doing this. We’ve gone from producing records for a particular investigation to the production of all records for a massive pre-collection database. It’s incredibly sweeping.”…
[I]n the years since , the FBI’s use of Section 215 quietly exploded, with virtually no public notice or debate. In 2009, as part of an annual report to Congress, the Justice Department reported there had been 21 applications for business records to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) under Section 215 – all of which were granted, though nine were modified by the court. (The reports do not explain how or why the orders were modified.)
In 2010, the number of requests jumped to 205 (all again granted, with 176 modified.) In the latest report filed on April 30, the department reported there had been 212 such requests in 2012 – all approved by the court, but 200 of them modified.
These sharp increase in the use of Section 215 has drawn little attention until now because the number of national security letters (NSLs) issued by the bureau has been so much greater — 15,229 in 2012. But FBI Director Mueller, in little-noticed written responses to Congress two years ago, explained that the bureau was encountering resistance from telecommunications companies in turning over “electronic communication transaction” records in response to national security letters.
Google, Facebook, and the gang started to resist NSLs on grounds that they were dubious legally, so Mueller shifted to Section 215 and got back to squeezing them for more and more and more data. Hence Google’s new move, announced just this afternoon: To take some of the heat off itself and push it back onto the feds where it belongs, the company’s lawyer is asking the DOJ to let it publish the number — and scope — of FBI requests for records it receives each year. Right now it’s forbidden to say because Section 215 imposes a gag order on the target of the record request. If Google can’t legally resist complying, at least it can soothe its critics by revealing just how much pressure it’s under from the Most Transparent Administration Ever.
Exit question: This WaPo story is nothing more than a textbook pro-Obama leak authorized by the White House to take some heat off of him and maybe show the virtues of aggressive cyberwarfare, right?
Update: What does this mean?
A leading Republican senator on Tuesday described controversial U.S. spy programs as looking far deeper into Americans’ phone records than the Obama administration has been willing to admit, fueling new privacy concerns as Congress sought to defend the surveillance systems.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC., says the U.S. intelligence surveillance of phone records allows analysts to monitor U.S. phone records for a pattern of calls, even if those numbers have no known connection to terrorism.
Graham says the National Security Agency then matches phone numbers against known terrorists. Graham helped draft the surveillance law that governs the surveillance program.
In other words, they’re looking for patterns among the general population that match the phone patterns of people they’ve already identified as terrorists? So they’re not limiting themselves to targeting specific terrorist-linked numbers anymore, but suspicious “patterns” too?