"The programs, code-named Blarney, Fairview, Oakstar, Lithium and Stormbrew, among others, filter and gather information at major telecommunications companies," the Wall Street Journal reported.
"This filtering takes place at more than a dozen locations at major Internet junctions in the U.S., officials say. Previously, any NSA filtering of this kind was largely believed to be happening near points where undersea or other foreign cables enter the country."
In a statement, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, who himself is a strong critic of the NSA's surveillance programs, said that the release of the declassified ruling was long overdue. Despite the changes made since 2011, he added, the data collection described within the ruling was a "serious violation of the 4th Amendment and demonstrates even more clearly the need to close the back-door searches loophole" that allows American communications to be collected without warrant if they are caught in the dragnet while the NSA conducts foreign intercepts.
"Moreover, the ruling states that the NSA has knowingly acquired tens of thousands of wholly domestic communications under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, even though this law was specifically written to prohibit the warrantless acquisition of wholly domestic communications. The FISA Court has noted that this collection violates the spirit of the law, but the government has failed to address this concern in the two years since this ruling was issued," the Senator added.
Mirroring the Senator's thoughts, the ACLU issued a statement calling for stronger oversight, as the declassified ruling provides further proof that current mechanisms are far too feeble. Moreover, the ACLU notes that the opinion further serves as a reminder of "how incredibly permissive our surveillance laws are" adding that this kind of surveillance "is unconstitutional, and Americans should make it very clear to their representatives that they will not tolerate it."
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.