The secretive U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has issued its first order allowing the National Security Agency to collect telephone records following the electronic spying law that the Republican-majority Congress passed last year.
The order, signed by FISC Chief Judge Thomas Hogan, said the court concluded that a surveillance application, apparently submitted by the NSA, met the requirements of the USA Freedom Act, which President Barack Obama signed last year.
That law replaced an older one that allowed the NSA to collect telephone "metadata"—records of U.S. citizens' and residents' calls, including their origin and destination, when a call was placed and how long it lasted. However, U.S. intelligence officials have said the NSA did not collect the content of phone calls under this program and did not look at the data without some specific justification.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed classified details of the collection program in 2013, and last year, Congress and the Obama administration narrowed the government's power to collect such domestic telephone metadata.
Under the new law and revised procedures, the government no longer collects bulk telephone metadata, but must request targeted information from telecoms companies after obtaining authorization from the foreign intelligence court.