US releases NSA records
20 November 2013, 08:16
Washington - The United States has released 1 000 pages of documents related to surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency, including an original court order that authorised a since-discontinued programme for the mass collection of US email records.
The documents included a finding by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that provided the legal basis for the email programme and set limits on how the information could be used. It allowed details such as email addresses to be gathered, but not the content of the emails themselves.
US officials have been releasing information related to the mass surveillance programmes in the wake of leaks by former government contractor Edward Snowden that revealed the mass spying on telephone and email records and prompted widespread public outrage.
The documents released late on Monday were heavily redacted and the original court order's date had been removed, but US media said it appeared to date from 2004, based on information from Snowden. The US email collection had been discontinued in 2011, but collection of foreign emails continued.
The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the documents showed the surveillance was "conducted in a manner that safeguards the constitutional rights of US persons".
Civil liberties organizations that had requested the documents said on Tuesday the material had been selectively chosen to convince the public the programme was legal and narrowly-tailored.
"This is fundamentally a smoke-and-mirrors effort designed to hide the reality that there is no real oversight, and that the FISA court is not really a court and has no independent capacity to test, challenge or evaluate the veracity of the government's claims and assertions about its spying programme," said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.
Other documents that are part of the trove showed that the spy agency had failed to comply with its own internal controls on the use of the data, but that it had discovered the problems in 2009 and attempted to address them.