WASHINGTON – A newly declassified opinion from the government’s secret surveillance court says no company that has received an order to turn over bulk telephone records has challenged the directive.
The opinion by Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge Claire Eagan, made public Tuesday, spells out her reasons for reauthorizing the phone records collection “of specified telephone service providers” for three months.
The collection program, which the government says is authorized under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, was disclosed by former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden, provoking a heated debate over civil liberties.
Eagan had asked that her Aug. 29 opinion be made public “because of the public interest in this matter,” and on Tuesday, the presiding judge of the FISA Court, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, ordered that the opinion be published. Portions of the opinion were blacked out.
“To date, no holder of records who has received an order to produce bulk telephony metadata has challenged the legality of such an order,” wrote Eagan, who also serves on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, to which she was appointed by President George W. Bush. “Indeed, no recipient of any Section 215 order has challenged the legality of such an order, despite the explicit statutory mechanism for doing so.”
Eagan also concluded that the collection of phone records does not violate the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure.
Verizon declined to comment on the opinion. AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.