Privacy Law

Microsoft's general counsel blasts surveillance court; federal judge upholds bulk collection of data

Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith blasted the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Tuesday, saying it creates law “that the American public is not permitted to read.”

In a speech at the Brookings Institution, Smith said the court, which reviews government data requests in its fight against terrorism, is unlike most other courts because “only one side gets to tell its story.” The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports on his speech.

As Smith spoke he showed an image of a document with all the text blacked out, implying it was a government document before the court. “This is not an approach inclined to promote justice,” he said.

Smith spoke on the same day that a federal judge in Oregon ruled against a convicted terrorism defendant who challenged the warrantless data collection program. U.S. District Judge Garr King of Portland ruled against Mohamed Mohamud, a U.S. citizen in Oregon who claimed the surveillance program was unconstitutional, report the Associated Press and the New York Times.

A 2008 law allows the government to collect emails and phone calls of Americans without warrants if they are communicating with noncitizen terrorism suspects abroad. Mohamud said the government didn’t notify him about evidence derived from his contact with overseas suspects until after his conviction in the FBI sting operation.

King cited the need to protect national security in upholding the law. His ruling is the first by a federal judge on the constitutionality of the law, the Times says.

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