According to a report [WP report] released by the Washington Post Saturday, the Obama administration won permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) [official websites] court in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails. The revelations come from materials [text, PDF] recently declassified by the Obama administration, including a 2011 opinion by the chief judge of the FISC regarding section 702 [text, PDF] of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The decision allowed for the NSA to retain US communications the agency intercepted for an additional year and perform searches of e-mail and phone call databases using e-mail addresses and phone numbers of US citizens. According to the report, the 2011 decision overturned a 2008 ban on government requests for searches of such databases.
The revelations surrounding the NSA surveillance programs [JURIST backgrounder] have sparked worldwide debate and controversy. Last week The Guardian [official website] obtained files showing [JURIST report] that the NSA and its UK counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) [official website], compromised the guarantees that Internet companies have given consumers to reassure them that their communications are encrypted. The files, published [NYT report] in partnership with the New York Times and ProPublica [official websites], reveal a 10-year NSA decryption program, making data through Internet cable taps exploitable. In June the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in conjunction with the New York Civil Liberties Union [advocacy websites] filed suit [JURIST report] against the NSA challenging its recently revealed phone data collection. Although the president and top officials have defended the surveillance as a lawful counterterrorism measure, several US lawmakers have called for a review [JURIST report] of the government's surveillance activity in light of recent reports revealing phone and Internet monitoring.