Although it was revealed by Edward Snowden in June 2013, the National Security Agency’s (NSA) infamous secret program to domestically collect Americans’ e-mail metadata in bulk technically ended in December 2011. Or so we thought. A new document obtained through a lawsuit filed by The New York Times confirms that this plan successfully continued beneath the authority of different government applications with much less scrutiny from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).
The bulk electronic communications metadata system was initially authorized by the government below the Pen Register and Trap and Trace (PRTT) provision, also identified as Section 402 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The Times’ document, a previously-best secret National Security Agency Inspector General (NSA IG) report from January 2007, includes a lot of intelligence jargon but crucially notes: “Other authorities can satisfy particular foreign intelligence requirements that the PRTT program was designed to meet.”
Although such a theory had been pushed previously by some national security watchers, which includes Marcy Wheeler, this admission had yet to be officially confirmed. Wheeler argued that not only do the post-PRTT programs obtain the same purpose, but she believed they were in reality much more expansive than what was previously allowed.