The order that authorized the controversial
data collection program has been declassified by the US government
and is to be released, news reports said Tuesday.
The order, issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, set out the rules and rationale for the bulk collection of US phone records, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing an unidentified senior US official.
The declassified order is expected to be made public Wednesday when Deputy Attorney General James Cole, National Security Agency (NSA) Deputy Director John Inglis and other officials are to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The NSA has collected telephone records without a court order since shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The secret court order authorizing the collection came in 2007.
Administration officials are planning to release two white papers on the telephone data programme that were provided to Congress in 2009 and 2011 before House and Senate votes to reauthorize the law behind it, the senior official said. The Times said he spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be quoted.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed the programme by giving the Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post a secondary order from the court, the LA Times said. The primary order - the one set to be released - has more details, including about the rules under which the database of phone records may be queried, according to the official.
Snowden unveiled the government's extensive surveillance of the US's private phone system in May and then fled the country.
Snowden has been stranded at a Moscow airport for weeks and could be granted asylum in Russia. Since his disclosures, administration officials have been internally debating how much information about the programme and the secret orders of the foreign intelligence court should be released to the public, the LA Times said.
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