By: Nadia Prupis
Government surveillance of civilians has declined in large part due to National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden's 2013 revelations, according to the latest inspector general audit of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
The report (pdf), released Thursday, which covers the department's activities from 2012 to 2014, finds that technology companies grew increasingly resistant to sharing information with the FBI after Snowden exposed the government's mass surveillance programs—and that the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved far fewer FBI requests for civilians' “business records” than it did before the revelations. The records were requested under the controversial Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the government relied on at the time to collect bulk communications data.
Between 2012 and 2014, the FISA court issued 561 orders known as National Security Letters (NSL), which subpoena records like email time stamps, senders and recipients, and other metadata without a warrant. In 2012, the court issued a nine-year high of 212 NSLs; by 2014, that had dropped to 170. By 2015, it was 142.