Disclosures about Stellarwind

NY Times Co. v. US DOJ, 14 Civ. 3776 (SDNY)

In response to a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) action by the New York Times, the government declassified and portions of a 746-page report authored by six agencies’ inspectors generals in 2009 about the Stellarwind program. The first portions of the report were released on April 24, 2014, and additional portions were released on September 18.

The additional portions shed light on Attorney General Ashcroft’s hospital bed refusal in March 2004 to certify that the Stellarwind program was lawful. Documents leaked in 2013 had indicated that the Attorney General objected to the bulk collection of data about Americans’ emails. The portions of the Inspector Generals’ report show that the Justice Department also objected to the NSA’s bulk acquisition of domestic phone and internet metadata on the ground that President Bush’s secret directives had allowed metadata to be acquired only if it pertained to a specific message linked to terrorism or at least one end of the communication was foreign. The day after the confrontation with the Attorney General, President Bush “fixed” the  gap by declaring that the NSA had been authorized all along to engage in bulk collection of domestic metadata, so long as analysts only looked at records linked to terrorism. The President also declared that his authorizations as Commander in Chief “displaced” FISA and criminal wiretapping laws. In response, however, to top Justice Department officials’ threat of mass resignation, the President agreed to limit the Stellarwind program to investigations of Al Qaeda, and not other types of international counterterrorism investigations.


The newly declassified portions of the report are available at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/09/21/us/21foia-stellarwind-report.html

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