Scott For the first time, the United States’ most secret court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), has published its legal rationale as to why the telecom metadata sharing program under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act is legitimate.

The 46-page opinion was authored August 29, 2013, but was not published on the FISC’s website until Tuesday.

The opinion was only now published due to FISC judge Reggie Walton, who ordered the government to conduct a declassification review of such decisions and related orders in the wake of the leaks provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

As a result, this August 2013 order and two others have now been declassified. Walton’s declassification order was made at the request of Judge Claire Eagan, who herself authored those opinions. In her opinion (PDF), Judge Eagan wrote that because terrorists use phones (or in legal-speak: “telephonic systems”) and some of those phones traverse the United States’ phone network, metadata is therefore considered the business records of the telecoms involved.     

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