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    Rubber Stamp Court Gave NSA, FBI Permission for all Electronic Surveillance

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    The US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2015 granted all requests for electronic surveillance by the FBI and NSA. The court allowed these agencies to engage in various activities including intercepting phone calls and collecting emails in the pursuit of national security.

    In 2015, the FBI and NSA filed 1,457 applications to engage in electronic surveillance. The secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved all of them, according to a Justice Department memo sent to leaders of various congressional committees on Friday. 

    These documents allowed the agencies to engage in different intelligence-gathering activities including intercepting calls and emails, as well as gathering contact data to meet national security goals.

    The trend continues from 2014, when the court also granted every surveillance request by the NSA and FBI.

    These electronic-surveillance activities often are conducted with the assistance of Internet and telecommunication companies.

    The court also granted 48,642 national security letters (NSLs) made by the FBI in 2015.

    NSLs demand that Internet and telecommunications companies turn over customer data such as Web browsing history, email addresses, and subscriber information.

    Most of the activities outlined in these requests targeted foreigners, according to the memo. 31,863 such requests were made. The memo also stated that 9,418 NSL’s targeted US citizens and legal immigrants.

    The court was founded in 1976 to allow security agencies to conduct wide-spread surveillance activities on potential foreign threats. It came under intense scrutiny following the Edward Snowden leaks in 2013.

    Civil liberties advocates argue that the court issues “rubber stamps” for a wide range of often questionable surveillance practices. Government officials say the Justice Department is careful when analyzing applications and that it sometimes modifies them substantially.  

    The court modified 80 applications in 2015. The previous year, it only modified 19.

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    Tags:
    domestic spying, domestic surveillance, spying, spy, national security, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Security Agency (NSA), Washington DC
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