Compliance Management, Privacy

Declassified info shows FBI’s role in warrantless surveillance increased

A declassified Justice Department report sheds light on the FBI's growing involvement in PRISM, a mass surveillance program often linked with the National Security Agency (NSA).

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit launched by The New York Times stirred DOJ to turn over the 284-page report, albeit substantially redacted, to the news outlet. On Sunday, the Times published the DOJ Inspector General Report (PDF), which was completed in 2012, but remained under wraps as a classified document until now.

The report marks how the FBI has progressively increased its role in warrantless surveillance, first, by assuming authority to review foreigners' email accounts collected under the PRISM system. In October 2009, the bureau then began “retaining copies of unprocessed communications gathered without a warrant to analyze for its own purposes,” the Times revealed.

In April 2012, the FBI started suggesting noncitizens' phone numbers and email accounts for mass collection by the NSA.

In an emailed letter to the Times, the Department of Justice said Friday that it was turning over the documents as a court ordered it to in August 2014. DOJ also noted, however, that “information in these documents has been redacted pursuant to certain FOIA exemptions.”

“There was only one uncensored reference to the Prism system,” the Times article noted. “It was not clear why the Justice Department had redacted all the other references to Prism in the report; the name of that program and many details about it have been declassified and were discussed in a July 2014 report by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.”

The Times may dispute DOJ's redactions as FOIA litigation continues, the outlet said.

Get daily email updates

SC Media's daily must-read of the most current and pressing daily news

By clicking the Subscribe button below, you agree to SC Media Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.