Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that he was releasing documents following President Obama’s order in June to "declassify and make public as much information as possible about certain sensitive programmes
Marking the continuation of the public relations battle between the U.S. intelligence community and privacy rights advocates here, an apex intelligence agency on Monday released yet another tranche of declassified internal documents of the National Security Agency.
In doing so, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that he was releasing documents following U.S. President Barack Obama’s order in June to “declassify and make public as much information as possible about certain sensitive programmes while being mindful of the need to protect sensitive classified intelligence activities and national security.”
In June whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden made public a large number of secret operational documents of the NSA, suggesting in some cases that the Agency had extended its global mass surveillance of Internet and telephone communications beyond the mandate provided by Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court, especially regarding the collection of information on U.S. citizens.
Following this the U.S. Congress held numerous hearings where Mr. Clapper and NSA head General Keith Alexander were quizzed on the extent of spying operations, and Mr. Obama distanced himself from any notion that he had authorised the NSA to snoop on leaders of allied nations such as Germany.
However this week Mr. Clapper said that the latest trove of declassified data brought the total to nearly 2000 pages of documents released to the public so far, including 20 orders and opinions of the FISA Court, 11 pleadings and other documents submitted to the Court, 24 documents provided to Congress, and 20 reports, training slides, and other internal documents describing the legal basis for the programmes and how they operate.
However, journalist Glenn Greenwald, who authored many of the reports in the Guardian newspaper outlining the facts revealed by Mr. Snowden’s exposé, was among several reporters who pointed out that the FISA Court was virtually “rubber-stamping” the U.S. government’s requests for business records relating to foreign intelligence and between 2005-11. The Court did not reject a single such request.
Further, according to court records from 2009, despite repeated assurances that it would abide by the FISA Court's rules, the NSA was said to have “acknowledged that it had collected material improperly,” and in one case the violations were apparently due to “poor management, lack of involvement by compliance officials and lack of internal verification procedures, not by bad faith.” In another case, the documents suggested, the NSA had improperly collected information due to a typographical error.
The release of data came even as the Obama administration won a significant victory in its battle against privacy advocates’ efforts to scale back snooping programmes. On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a call from a privacy group to stop the NSA from collecting the telephone records of millions of customers of U.S. telecom giant Verizon.