Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Public advocate: FBI’s use of PRISM surveillance data is unconstitutional

A public advocate appointed by the nation’s secretive surveillance court last year argued that a little-known provision of the PRISM program, which enables the FBI to query foreign intelligence information for evidence of domestic crime, violated the Constitution.

But the court disagreed with her.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court asked Amy Jeffress, the advocate, in August to assess the provision, according to a court opinion filed in November but released by the intelligence community only on Tuesday.

The court, which weighs government applications for surveillance, traditionally hears arguments only from the government in closed sessions. Its opinions generally are classified.

Jeffress, a former federal prosecutor and Justice Department official now in private practice, was the first public advocate or “amicus curiae” appointed under the USA Freedom Act, a law enacted in June to impose new limits and greater transparency on government surveillance.

PRISM is an intelligence-gathering program whose name and scope were disclosed in June 2013 through leaks of documents by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor.

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