Obama’s intelligence czar vows to release his own transparency report

August 29, 2013

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will begin releasing annual reports about the National Security Agency's surveillance activity in the coming months, a spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has confirmed.

The report will disclose the total number of court approvals granted for a range of surveillance requests, including national security letters as well as those made under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (also known as the "business records provision"). In a statement posted to ODNI's Tumblr Thursday night, Clapper promised not only to release the aggregate number of requests for each category, but also the number of targets at which those requests were aimed.

The full list of categories the report will cover includes:

  • FISA orders based on probable cause (Titles I and III of FISA, and sections 703 and 704).
  • Section 702 of FISA
  • FISA Business Records (Title V of FISA)
  • FISA Pen Register/Trap and Trace (Title IV of FISA)
  • National Security Letters issues pursuant to 12 U.S.C. § 3414(a)(5), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1681u(a) and (b), 15 U.S.C. § 1681v, and 18 U.S.C. § 2709

An ODNI spokesperson, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said the agency plans to issue its first transparency report in "the late fall" and acknowledged that the NSA leaks from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden played a role in the decision.

"It's certainly the case that unauthorized disclosure of documents accelerated this process," the spokesperson said, "but it would be inaccurate to say it accelerated this process without also saying we were already on this path."

Google and Facebook have filed requests to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court asking for permission to reveal more information about FISA requests in their own periodic transparency reports. Since the initial filings, the Justice Department has asked for an extension of the deadline six times.

Asked whether the intelligence community's new report was meant to avoid having to grant that permission, the ODNI spokesperson said simply, "The answer we're talking about is about improving one thing: transparency."

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post.
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