To the extent that the FISC sanctioned PRISM, it may be consistent with the law. But it is disingenuous to suggest that millions of Americans’ e-mails, photographs and documents are “incidental” to an investigation targeting foreigners overseas.The telephony metadata program raises similar concerns. FISA did not originally envision the government accessing records. Following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Congress allowed applications for obtaining records from certain kinds of businesses. In 2001, lawmakers further expanded FISA to give the government access to any business or personal records. Under section 215 of the Patriot Act, the government no longer has to prove that the target is a foreign power. It need only state that the records are sought as part of an investigation to protect against terrorism or clandestine intelligence.This means that FISA can now be used to gather records concerning individuals who are neither the target of any investigation nor an agent of a foreign power. Entire databases — such as telephony metadata — can be obtained, as long as an authorized investigation exists.
By Laura K. Donohue
June 21, 2013 | Washington Post