U.S. intelligence officials have declassified a secret court opinion that both chastises the National Security Agency for misleading the court and highlights an eavesdropping program in which authorities have direct access to "upstream" internet communications.
The document released today confirms for the first time unofficial leaks and speculation that the federal intelligence community has direct access to telecom companies' backbones and it scoops up email communications as they go past. Millions are collected each year. WIRED first reported on such an eavesdropping installation in 2007 when a former AT&T technician provided documents outlining eavesdropping technology used by AT&T. Both the government and AT&T have declined to confirm the documents' authenticity.
Today's startling revelation was outlined in a 2011 opinion by Judge John D. Bates, then the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret tribunal that often rubber-stamps government surveillance requests in classified rulings.