Terrorist Surveillance Program

Terrorist Surveillance Program



The Terrorist Surveillance Program was an electronic surveillance program implemented by the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks. "The program, which enabled the United States to secretly track billions of phone calls made by millions of U.S. citizens over a period of decades, was a blueprint for the NSA surveillance that would come after it, with similarities too close to be coincidental". It was part of the President's Surveillance Program, which was in turn conducted under the overall umbrella of the War on Terrorism. The NSA, a signals intelligence agency, implemented the program to intercept al Qaeda communications overseas where at least one party is not a U.S. person. In 2005 The New York Times disclosed that technical glitches resulted in some of the intercepts including communications which were "purely domestic" in nature, igniting the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy. Later works, such as James Bamford's The Shadow Factory, describe how the nature of the domestic surveillance was much, much more widespread than initially disclosed. In a 2011 New Yorker article, former NSA employee Bill Binney said that his colleagues told him that the NSA had begun storing billing and phone records from "everyone in the country."

The program was named the Terrorist Surveillance Program by the George W. Bush administration in response to the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy following disclosure of the program. It is claimed that this program operated without the judicial oversight mandated by Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and legal challenges to the program are currently undergoing judicial review. Because the technical specifics of the program have not been disclosed, it is unclear if the program is subject to FISA. It is unknown if this is the original name of the program; the term was first used publicly by President Bush in a speech on January 23, 2006.

On August 17, 2006, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled the program unconstitutional and illegal. On appeal, the decision was overturned on procedural grounds and the lawsuit was dismissed without addressing the merits of the claims, although one further challenge is still pending in the courts. On January 17, 2007, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales informed U.S. Senate leaders by letter that the program would not be reauthorized by the president, but would be subjected to judicial oversight. "Any electronic surveillance that was occurring as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program will now be conducted subject to the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court", according to his letter.

On June 6, 2013, it was revealed that the Terrorist Surveillance Program was replaced by a new NSA program, referred to by its codeword, PRISM.


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