U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation
Section 215 (docket no. BR 13-109)
III. Section 215.

Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act created a statutory framework, the various parts of which are designed to ensure not only that the government has access to the information it needs for authorized investigations, but also that there are protections and prohibitions in place to safeguard U.S. person information. It requires the government to demonstrate, among other things, that there is "an investigation to obtain foreign intelligence information ... to [in this case] protect against international terrorism," 50 U.S.C. § 1861(a)(1); that investigations of U.S. persons are "not conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution," id.; that the investigation is "conducted under guidelines approved by the Attorney General under Executive Order 12333," id. § 1861(a)(2); that there is "a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant" to the investigation, id. § 1861(b)(2)(A);14 that there are adequate minimization procedures "applicable to the retention and dissemination" of the information requested, id. § 1861(b)(2)(B); and, that only the production of such things that could be "obtained with a subpoena duces tecum" or "any other order issued by a court of the United States directing the production of records" may be ordered, id. § 1861(c)(2)(D), see infra Part III.a. (discussing Section 2703(d) of the Stored Communications Act). If the Court determines that the government has met the requirements of Section 215, it shall enter an ex parte order compelling production.15

This Court must verify that each statutory provision is satisfied before issuing the requested Orders. For example, even if the Court finds that the records requested are relevant to an investigation, it may not authorize the production if the minimization procedures are insufficient. Under Section 215, minimization procedures are "specific procedures that are reasonably designed in light of the purpose and technique of an order for the production of tangible things, to minimize the retention, and prohibit the dissemination, of nonpublicly available information concerning unconsenting United States persons consistent with the need of the United States to obtain, produce, and
disseminate foreign intelligence information." Id. § 1861(g)(2)(A). Congress recognized in this provision that information concerning U.S. persons that is not directly responsive to foreign intelligence needs will be produced under these orders and established postproduction protections for such information. As the Primary Order issued in this matter demonstrates, this Court's authorization includes detailed restrictions on the government through minimization procedures. See Primary Ord. at 4-17. Without those restrictions, this Court could not, nor would it, have approved the proposed production. This Court's Primary Order also sets forth the requisite findings under Section 215 for issuing the Orders requested by the government in its Application. ld. at 2, 4-17.

The Court now turns to its interpretation of Section 215 with regard to how it compares to 18 U.S.C. § 2703 (Stored Communications Act); its determination that "there are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation," 50 U.S.C. § 1861(b)(2)(A); and, the doctrine of legislative re-enactment as it pertains to the business records provision.a. Section 215 of FISA and Section 2703(d) of the Stored Communications
Act.It is instructive to compare Section 215, which is used for foreign intelligence purposes and is codified as part of FISA, with 18 U.S.C. § 2703 ("Required disclosure of customer communications or records"), which is used in criminal investigations and is part of the Stored Communications Act (SCA). See In Re Production of Tangible Things From [REDACTED] Docket No. BR 08-13, Supp. Op. (Dec. 12, 2008) (discussing Section 215 and Section 2703). Section 2703 establishes a process by which the government can obtain information from electronic communications service providers, such as telephone companies. As with FISA, this section of the SCA provides the mechanism for obtaining either the contents of communications, or non-content records of communications. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 2703(a)-(c).

For non-content records production requests, such as the type sought here, Section 2703(c) provides a variety of mechanisms, including acquisition through a court order under Section 2703(d). Under this section, which is comparable to Section 215, the government must offer to the court "specific and articulable facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that ... the records or other information sought, are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation." Id. § 2703(d) (emphasis added). Section 215, the comparable provision for foreign intelligence purposes, requires neither "specific and articulable facts" nor does it require that the information be "material." Rather, it merely requires a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the records sought are relevant to the investigation. See 50 U.S.C. §1861(b)(2)(A). That these two provisions apply to the production of the same type of records from the same type of providers is an indication that Congress intended this Court to apply a different, and in specific respects lower, standard to the
government's Application under Section 215 than a court reviewing a request under Section 2703(d). Indeed, the pre-PATRIOT Act version of FISA's business records provision required "specific and articulable facts giving reason to believe that the person to whom the records pertain is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power." 50 U.S.C. §1862(b)(2)(B) as it read on October 25, 2001.16 In enacting Section 215, Congress removed the requirements for "specific and articulable facts" and that the records pertain to "a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power." Accordingly, now the government need not provide specific and articulable facts, demonstrate any connection to a particular suspect, nor show materiality when requesting business records under Section 215. To find otherwise would be to impose a higher burden - one
that Congress knew how to include in Section 215, but chose to dispense with.

Furthermore, Congress provided different measures to ensure that the government obtains and uses information properly, depending on the purpose for which it sought the information. First, Section 2703 has no provision for minimization procedures. However, such procedures are mandated under Section 215 and must be designed to restrict the retention and dissemination of information, as imposed by this Court's Primary Order. Primary Ord. at 4-17; see 50 U.S.C. §§ 1861(c)(l), (g). Second, Section 2703(d) permits the service provider to file a motion with a court to "quash or modify such order, if the information or records requested are unusually voluminous in nature or compliance with such order otherwise would cause undue burden on such provider." Id. Congress recognized that, even with the higher statutory standard for a production order under Section 2703(d), some requests authorized by a court would be "voluminous" and provided a means by which the provider could seek relief using a motion. Id. Under Section 215, however, Congress provided a specific and complex statutory scheme for judicial review of an Order from this Court to ensure that providers could challenge both the legality of the required production and the nondisclosure provisions of that Order. 50 U.S.C. § 1861(£). This adversarial process includes the selection of a judge from a pool of FISC judges to review the challenge to determine if it is frivolous and to rule on the merits, id. § 1861(f)(2)(A)(ii), provides standards that the judge is to apply during such review, id. §§ 1861(f)(2)(B)-(C), and provides for appeal to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review and, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court, id. § 1861(f)(3).17 This procedure, as opposed to the motion process available under Section 2703(d) to challenge a production as unduly voluminous or burdensome, contemplates a substantial and engaging adversarial process to test the legality of this Court's Orders under Section 215.18 This enhanced process appears designed to ensure that there are additional safeguards in light of the lower threshold that the government is required to meet for production under Section 215 as opposed to Section 2703(d). To date, no holder of records who has received an Order to produce bulk telephony metadata has challenged the legality of such an Order. Indeed, no recipient of any Section 215 Order has challenged the legality of such an Order, despite the explicit statutory mechanism for doing so.

When analyzing a statute or a provision thereof, a court considers the statutory schemes as a whole. See Kokoszka v. Belford, 417 U.S. 642, 650 (1974) (noting that when a court interprets a statute, it looks not merely to a particular clause but will examine it within the whole statute or statutes on the same subject) (internal quotation and citation omitted); Jones v. St. Louis-San Francisco Ry. Co., 728 F.2d 257, 262 (6th Cir. 1984) ("[W]here two or more statutes deal with the same subject, they are to be read in pari materia and harmonized, if possible. This rule of statutory construction is based upon the premise that when Congress enacts a new statute, it is aware of all previously enacted statutes on the same subject.") (citations omitted). Here, the Court finds that Section 215 and Section 2703(d) operate in a complementary manner and are designed for their specific purposes. In the criminal investigation context, Section 2703(d) includes front-end protections by imposing a higher burden on the government to obtain the information in the first instance. On the other hand, when the government seeks to obtain the same type of information, but for a foreign intelligence purpose, Congress provided the government with more latitude at the production stage under Section 215 by not requiring specific and articulable facts or meeting a materiality standard. Instead, it imposed post-production checks in the form of mandated minimization procedures and a structured adversarial process. This is a logical
framework and it comports well with the Fourth Amendment concept that the required factual predicate for obtaining information in a case of special needs, such as national security, can be lower than for use of the same investigative measures for an ordinary criminal investigation. See United States v. United States District Court (Keith), 407 U.S. 297, 308-09, 322-23 (1972); and, In reSealed Case, 310 F.3d 717, 745-46 (FISA Ct. Rev. 2002) (differentiating requirements for the government to obtain information obtained for national security reasons as opposed to a criminal investigation).19

Moreover, the government's interest is significantly greater when it is attempting to thwart attacks and disrupt activities that could harm national security, as opposed to gathering evidence on domestic crimes. See In re Directives Pursuant to Section 105B of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. 551 F.3d 1004, 1012 (FISA Ct. Rev. 2008) ("[T}he relevant government interest-the interest in national security-is of the highest order of magnitude.") (citing Haig v. Agee, 453 U.S. 280, 307 (1981)); and, In reSealed Case. 310 F.3d at 745-46.b. Relevance.Because known and unknown international terrorist operatives are using telephone communications, and because it is necessary to obtain the bulk collection of a telephone company's metadata to determine those connections between known and unknown international terrorist operatives as part of authorized investigations, the production of the information sought meets the standard for relevance under Section 215.

As an initial matter and as a point of clarification, the government's burden under Section 215 is not to prove that the records sought are, in fact, relevant to an authorized investigation. The explicit terms of the statute require "a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant .... " 50 U.S.C. § 1861(b)(2)(A) (emphasis added). In establishing this standard, Congress chose to leave the term "relevant" undefined. It is axiomatic that when Congress declines to define a term a court must give the term its ordinary meaning. See e.g., Taniguchi v. Kan Pacific Saipan, Ltd.,_ U.S.--' 132 S.Ct. 1997, 2002 (2012).

Accompanying the government's first application for the bulk production of telephone company metadata was a Memorandum of Law which argued that "[i]nformation is 'relevant' to an authorized international terrorism investigation if it bears upon, or is pertinent to, that investigation." Mem. of Law in Support of App. for Certain Tangible Things for Investigations to Protect Against International Terrorism, Docket No. BR 06-05 (filed May 23, 2006), at 13-14 (quoting dictionary definitions, Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978), and Fed. R. Evid. 4012°). This Court recognizes that the concept of relevance here is in fact broad and amounts to a relatively low
standard.21 Where there is no requirement for specific and articulable facts or materiality, the government may meet the standard under Section 215 if it can demonstrate reasonable grounds to believe that the information sought to be produced has some bearing on its investigations of the identified international terrorist organizations.
This Court has previously examined the issue of relevance for bulk collections. See [HEAVILY REDACTED]. While those involved different collections from the one at issue here, the relevance standard was similar. See 50 U.S.C. § 1842(c)(2) ("[R]elevant to an ongoing investigation to protect against international terrorism .... "). In both cases, there were facts demonstrating that information concerning known and unknown affiliates of international terrorist organizations was contained within the non-content metadata the government sought to obtain. As this Court noted in 2010, the "finding of relevance most crucially depended on the conclusion that bulk collection is necessary for NSA to employ tools that are likely to generate useful investigative leads to help identify and 1 track terrorist operatives." [REDACTED]. Indeed, in [REDACTED] this Court noted that bulk collections such as these are "necessary to identify_the much smaller number of [international terrorist] communications. [REDACTED] As a result, it is this showing of necessity that led the Court to find that "the entire mass of collected metadata is relevant to investigating [international terrorist groups] and affiliated persons." [REDACTED]

This case is no different. The government stated, and this Court is well aware, that individuals associated with international terrorist organizations use telephonic systems to communicate with one another around the world, including within the United States. Ex. A. at 4. The government argues that the broad collection of telephone company metadata "is necessary to create a historical repository of metadata that enables NSA to find or identify known and unknown operatives ... , some of whom may be in the United States or in communication with U.S. persons." App. at 6 (emphasis added). The government would use such information, in part, "to detect and prevent terrorist acts against the United States and U.S. interests." Ex. A. at 3. The government posits that bulk telephonic metadata is necessary to its investigations because it is impossible to know where in the data the connections to international terrorist organizations will be found. ld. at 8-9. The government notes also that "[a]nalysts know that the terrorists' communications are located somewhere" in the metadata produced under this authority, but cannot know where until the data is aggregated and then accessed by their analytic tools under limited and controlled queries. ld. As the government stated in its 2006 Memorandum of Law, "[a]ll of the metadata collected is thus relevant, because the success of this investigative tool depends on bulk collection." Mem. of Law at 15, Docket No. BR 06-05.

The government depends on this bulk collection because if production of the information were to wait until the specific identifier connected to an international terrorist group were determined, most of the historical connections (the entire purpose of this authorization) would be lost. See Ex. A. at 7-12. The analysis of past connections is only possible "if the Government has collected and archived a broad set of metadata that contains within it the subset of communications that can later be identified as terrorist-related." Mem. of Law at 2, Docket No. BR 06-05. Because the subset of terrorist communications is ultimately contained within the whole of the metadata produced, but can only be found after the production is aggregated and then queried using identifiers determined to be associated with identified international terrorist organizations, the whole production is relevant to the ongoing investigation out of necessity.

The government must demonstrate "facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation." 50 U.S.C. 1861(b)(2)(A). The fact that international terrorist operatives are using telephone communications, and that it is necessary to obtain the bulk collection of a telephone company's metadata to determine those connections between known and unknown international terrorist operatives as part of authorized investigations, is sufficient to meet the low statutory hurdle set out in Section 215 to obtain a production of records. Furthermore, it is important to remember that the relevance finding is only one part of a whole protective statutory scheme. Within the whole of this particular statutory scheme, the low relevance standard is counterbalanced by significant post-production minimization procedures that must accompany such an authorization and an available mechanism for an adversarial challenge in this
Court by the record holder. See supra Part liLa. Without the minimization procedures set out in detail in this Court's Primary Order, for example, no Orders for production would issue from this Court. See Primary Ord. at 4-17. Taken together, the Section 215 provisions are designed to permit the government wide latitude to seek the information it needs to meet its national security responsibilities, but only in combination with specific procedures for the protection of U.S. person information that are tailored to the production and with an opportunity for the authorization to be challenged. The Application before this Court fits comfortably within this statutory framework.c. Legislative Re-enactment or Ratification.As the U.S. Supreme Court has stated, "Congress is presumed to be aware of an administrative or judicial interpretation of a statute and to adopt that interpretation when it re-enacts a statute without change." Lorillard v. Pons, 434 U.S. 575, 580 (1978)
(citing cases and authorities); see also Forest Grove Sch. Dist. y. T.A .. 557 U.S. 230, 239-40 (2009) (quoting Lorillard, 434 U.S. at 580). This doctrine of legislative re-enactment, also known as the doctrine of ratification, is applicable here because Congress reauthorized Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act without change in 2011. "PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011," Pub. L. No. 112-14, 125 Stat. 216 (May 26, 2011).22 This doctrine applies as a presumption that guides a court in interpreting a re-enacted statute. See Lorillard, 434 U.S. at 580-81 (citing cases); NLRB v. Gullett Gin Co., 340 U.S. 361, 365-66 (1951) ("[I]t is a fair assumption that by reenacting without pertinent ·
modification ... Congress accepted the construction ... approved by the courts."); 2B Sutherland on Statutory Construction § 49:8 and cases cited (7th ed. 2009). Admittedly, in the national security context where legal decisions are classified by the Executive Branch and, therefore, normally not widely available to Members of Congress for scrutiny, one could imagine that such a presumption would be easily overcome. However, despite the highly-classified nature of the program and this Court's orders, that is not the case here.

Prior to the May 2011 congressional votes on Section 215 re-authorization, the Executive Branch provided the Intelligence Committees of both houses of Congress with letters which contained a "Report on the National Security Agency's Bulk Collection Programs for USA PATRIOT Act Reauthorization" (Report). Ex. 3 (Letter to Hon. Mike Rogers, Chairman, and Hon. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Ranking Minority Member, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, U.S. House of Representatives (HPSCI), from Ronald Weich, Asst. Attorney General (Feb. 2, 2011) (HPSCI Letter); and, Letter to Hon. Dianne Feinstein, Chairman, and Hon. Saxby Chambliss, Vice Chairman, Select Committee on Intelligence, U.S. Senate (SSCI), from Ronald Weich, Asst. Attorney General (Feb. 2, 2011) (SSCI Letter)). The Report provided extensive and detailed information to the Committees regarding the nature and scope of this Court's approval of the implementation of Section 215 concerning bulk telephone metadata.23 The Report noted that "[a]lthough these programs have been briefed to the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, it is important that other Members of Congress have access to information about th[is] ... program[] when considering reauthorization of the expiring PATRIOT Act provisions." Id. Report at 3. Furthermore, the government stated the following in the HPSCI and SSCI Letters: "We believe that making this document available to'an Members of Congress is an effective way to inform the legislative debate about reauthorization of Section 215 .... " Id. HPSCI Letter at 1; SSCI Letter at 1. It is clear from the letters that the Report would be made available to all Members of Congress and that HPSCI, SSCI, and Executive Branch staff would also be made available to answer any questions from Members of Congress.24 Id. HPSCI Letter at 2; SSCI Letter at 2.

In light of the importance of the national security programs that were set to expire, the Executive Branch and relevant congressional committees worked together to ensure that each Member of Congress knew or had the opportunity to know how Section 215 was being implemented under this Court's Orders.25 Documentation and personnel were also made available to afford each Member full knowledge of the scope of the implementation of Section 215 and of the underlying legal interpretation. The record before this Court thus demonstrates that the factual basis for applying the re-enactment doctrine and presuming that in 2011 Congress intended to ratify Section 215 as applied by this Court is well supported. Members were informed that this Court's "orders generally require production of the business records (as described above) relating to substantially all of the telephone calls handled by the companies, including both calls made between the United States and a foreign country and calls made entirely within the United States." Ex. 3, Report at 3 (emphasis added). When Congress subsequently re-authorized Section 215 without change, except as to expiration date, that re-authorization carried with it this Court's interpretation of the statute, which permits the bulk collection of telephony metadata under the restrictions that are in place. Therefore, the passage of the PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act provides a persuasive reason for this Court to adhere to its prior interpretations of Section 215.