# FISA Court Opinion (2011)
A declassified FISC opinion from the government’s 2011 certification, written by Judge John D. Bates, ruled that the NSA violated the rights of American citizens when it collected emails and other communications between Americans.
Judge Bates said that the “NSA has been acquiring Internet transactions [monitoring to/from communications] since before the [FISA] Court’s approval” (FISC 2011, 17). The report also stated that the NSA’s upstream collection program, where the NSA collects information directly from fiber-optic data lines, was “deficient on statutory and constitutional grounds” (2).
In addition, the NSA’s program “may contain data that is wholly unrelated to the tacked selector, including the full content of discrete communications that are not to, from, or about the facility tasked for collection” (5). This means that not only was the NSA collecting data before the court’s approval, but that the methods used and the information collected violated U.S. law.
In a footnote of Judge Bates’ opinion, he said that “the Court is troubled that the government’s revelations regarding NSA’s acquisition of Internet transactions mark the third instance in less than three years in which the government has disclosed a substantial misrepresentation regarding the scope of a major collection program.” He also added, referring to a previous incident, that the Count’s requirement was “so frequently and systemically violated that it can fairly be said that this critical element of the overall...regime has never functioned effectively” (16). This proves that the government’s misuse of its surveillance programs is a recurring systemic problem, impeding both the rights of U.S. citizens and the program’s ability to operate effectively.
- Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Section 702 2011 Certification Memorandum Opinion and Order, by John Bates. Washington, D.C., 2011. https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/0716/October-2011-Bates-Opinion-and%20Order-20140716.pdf (opens new window) (Archive).