US court revises 1 of 4 requests from NSA: judge
AFPWASHINGTON -- A U.S. court that reviews electronic surveillance has ordered changes to about one in four requests from spy agencies over the past three months, according to a document released Tuesday.
October 17, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
In a letter to the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Reggie Walton, said the court required “substantive changes” on 24.4 percent of all requests from the National Security Agency from July 1 to Sept. 30.
The revisions related to “the information provided by the government or to the authorities granted as a result of court inquiry or action,” Walton wrote in the letter dated Oct. 11.
The release of the document by Dianne Feinstein, the head of the intelligence committee, appeared aimed at countering widespread criticism that the court has failed to provide a check on the power of the eavesdropping powers of the NSA.
Citing an earlier letter to the committee, Judge Walton also suggested that a previous estimate from the U.S. attorney general that the court had approved 99 percent of all applications for surveillance was misleading.
He said the attorney general's statistic did not reflect that many legal applications were altered or withheld after an initial indication that the court would reject the requests.
The judge's statement “makes it clear the court does not 'rubber stamp' requests for surveillance of terrorism suspects,” Feinstein said in a statement.
The court “is tasked with conducting careful legal analysis of all administration requests, and these data reinforce my belief that the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court is taking that mandate seriously,” she said.
The NSA's far-reaching electronic snooping on Internet traffic and phone records has triggered a firestorm after it was exposed in media leaks from a former intelligence contractor, Edward Snowden.
Fresh revelations this week, based in part on secret documents provided by Snowden, showed that the NSA was scooping up email and instant messenger contact lists from hundreds of millions of ordinary citizens worldwide, including Americans.
The NSA has struggled to defend its role, insisting that it goes to great lengths to avoid breaching privacy and that it is subject to strict oversight from the surveillance court, Congress and other government agencies.