Newly released documents that were apparently submitted by the federal government in several legal challenges to the NSA’s illegal surveillance programs confirm that the mining of metadata from emails began under direct order from President Bush.
The U.S. government has acknowledged that it swept up huge volumes of data from emails in the U.S. for several years without any court approval, based solely on the orders of former President George W. Bush.
In a court filings on Monday, government lawyers said that the Internet program ran in parallel with a program gathering so-called metadata about telephone calls. The counterterrorism efforts operated under presidential authority before a judge approved them in July 2004, said a 2007 court filing made public Monday by the Justice Department (and posted here.)
“After the 9/11 attacks and pursuant to an authorization of the President, [redacted] the NSA [redacted] the bulk collection of non-content information about telephone calls and Internet communications (hereafter ‘metadata’) activities that enable the NSA to uncover the contacts [redacted] of members or agents of al Qaeda or affiliated terrorist organizations,” a senior NSA official wrote in an October 2007 declaration originally filed under seal as part of an effort to defeat litigation about the snooping Bush ordered…
The email program was effectively public since June of last year, after contractor Edward Snowden leaked a top-secret National Security Agency inspector general report that described the program.
Early press reports on the surveillance, such as The New York Times’s groundbreaking account in December 2005, discussed its application to emails. However, when Bush publicly acknowledged the surveillance in 2006, he was vague about the details and did not mention gathering of email data.
The document mentions both internet and telephony metadata. None of this is a surprise, of course, but it’s good that the documents are now public, if heavily redacted. You can see the filing here.