[QODLink]
Americas

Secret court okays continued US surveillance

US intelligence director announces renewal of controversial telephone surveillance programme amid privacy concerns.

Last Modified: 20 Jul 2013 06:17
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
The years-old programme was disclosed in June by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden [Reuters]

A secret US intelligence court has renewed an order to continue seeking hundreds of millions of telephone records of Americans in its search for foreign terror or espionage suspects, the US government says.

The order issued on Friday by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has been in place for years, but must be renewed every three months.

It was exposed in June after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked details of two top secret US surveillance programmes that critics say violate privacy rights.

The order was set to expire on Friday, and its renewal shows that the Barack Obama administration and the court of 11 federal judges stand behind its legality.

In a statement, the office of national intelligence director James Clapper said it was confirming the renewal as part of an ongoing effort to make more information about the recently declassified programmes as public as possible.

Clapper "has decided to declassify and disclose publicly that the government filed an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court seeking renewal of the authority to collect telephony metadata in bulk, and that the court renewed that authority," the statement said.

Fills an intelligence gap

The two programmes, both run by the NSA, pick up millions of telephone and Internet records that are routed through American networks each day.

Intelligence officials say they have helped disrupt dozens of terrorist attacks, and target only foreign suspects outside the United States while taking close care not to look at the content of conversations or messages by American citizens.

But they have raised sharp concerns about whether the US is improperly, or even illegally, snooping on people at home and abroad.

The government also defended the phone-tracking programme in a letter to a federal judge, saying it is monitored by all three branches of the government.

The letter sent on Thursday by assistant US attorneys in Manhattan said the "highly sensitive and, in many respects, still classified intelligence-collection programme" required the collection and storage of a large volume of information about unrelated communications to fight terrorism.

The letter, the first government response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Obama administration earlier this year, said the programme "fills an intelligence gap highlighted by the attacks
of 9/11" and had been repeatedly approved by multiple judges.

The ACLU had asked a judge to find the programme unconstitutional, saying the government's programme exceeds the Congressional authority provided by the Patriot Act, which Congress hurriedly passed after the September 11 attacks and reauthorised in 2005 and 2010.

Snowden has been charged with espionage and is seeking asylum from several countries, including Russia.

The US whistleblower has been holed up for more than three weeks in a transit zone at Moscow's international airport since arriving from Hong Kong, and Russian customs inspectors say they do not have jurisdiction to seize him.

451

Source:
Associated Press
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Western fighters have streamed into the Middle East to help 'liberate' Arab countries such as Syria and Libya.
The Pakistani government is proposing reform of the nation's madrassas, which are accused of fostering terrorism.
Weaving and handicrafts are being re-taught to a younger generation of Iraqi Kurds, but not without challenges.
The author argues that in the new economy, it's people, not skills or majors, that have lost value.
Featured
After years of rapid growth, Argentina is bracing for another economic crisis as inflation eats up purchasing power.
Deaths of 13 Sherpas in Nepal has shone a light on dangerous working conditions in the Everest-climbing industry.
Al Jazeera investigation uncovers allegations of beatings and rape in Kenya's ongoing anti-terrorism operation.
Incumbent Joyce Banda has a narrow lead, but anything is possible in Malawi's May 20 elections.
Western fighters have streamed into the Middle East to help 'liberate' Arab countries such as Syria and Libya.
join our mailing list