The NSA has long defended its mass surveillance of Americans as fully approved by secret courts and subsequently at least quasi-legal. New court filings from the Justice Department reveal this wasn’t always the case.
Rather, the documents concede that bulk metadata collection on phone and Internet communications began in the wake of 9/11 under a secret authorization from then-President Bush, and they didn’t even bother to seek the rubber stamp from FISA courts for years.
It was only in 2004 when then Deputy Attorney General James Comey questioned the legality of the whole thing, and the administration went on to ask the FISA court, who as always, said it was fine.
Previously released documents from the Obama Administration had never touched on the existence of the program before its court approval, let alone suggesting it was going on for years.