30 September 2016

Pardon Him Now

It appears that one of the effects of the Snowden disclosures was to make the US State Security Apparatus significantly less likely to abuse the provisions of the Patriot Act:
Edward Snowden’s disclosures were partially responsible for reversing a massive growth in the use of a controversial provision of the Patriot Act for acquiring email and other so-called “business records”, the US justice department’s internal watchdog has found.

The Patriot Act provision, known as Section 215, permits intelligence and law enforcement agencies to acquire from a service provider records of someone’s communications – such as phone calls or email records – that are relevant to a terrorism or espionage investigation.

In June 2013, the Guardian, based on Snowden’s leaks, revealed that the Bush and Obama administrations had secretly been using Section 215 to acquire Americans’ phone data in bulk. The revelation led Congress to significantly curtail domestic bulk phone records collection in 2015.

The new report from the justice department inspector general reveals that around 2009, the FBI began encountering resistance from email providers and others to a highly controversial nonjudicial subpoena for records, known as a National Security Letter. In the wake of this, the FBI began acquiring the information it sought through warrant requests to the Fisa court, a secret surveillance panel, using Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the inspector general notes is a slower process.


But Snowden’s revelations, beginning in mid-2013, helped shift the FBI away from using Section 215 to acquire email and other metadata. The Fisa court approved warrants to collect non-bulk business records 179 times in 2013, a number falling to 142 times in 2015 – though this was still a vast increase on the 21 approved in 2009.

A senior national security official with the justice department told the inspector general that a “stigma” had been created around the Patriot Act provision, even outside of the bulk collection that privacy advocates rallied to stop.
Edward Snowden is an American hero and a patriot.


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