On the Bulk Collection of Tangible Things

This article examines the controversy surrounding bulk telephone metadata collection that has ensued since their disclosure in June 2013. The author analyzes the “use of tangible things” provision to acquire telephony metadata, including limitations on this practice, the statutory issues such a practice raises, and the ways in which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has decided on the issue since 2006. This article concludes that the Executive’s response, as delineated in a January 2014 speech, has yet to be fully implemented; however, the author argues that the disclosures have nonetheless raised new questions about the relative values of privacy and transparency in US intelligence.

Lead Author

David S. Kris
David Kris is a founder of Culper Partners LLC. He previously served as assistant attorney general for national security, associate deputy attorney general, trial attorney at the Department of Justice, general counsel at Intellectual Ventures, and deputy general counsel and chief ethics and compliance officer at Time Warner. He is the author or co-author of several works on national security, including the treatise National Security Investigations and Prosecutions, and has taught at Georgetown University and the University of Washington.

Randomly, but increasingly, when he submits material for prepublication review by the government, Mr. Kris has been directed to add the following disclaimer or its equivalent, which should be understood to apply to all of his published work unless otherwise indicated: “All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official positions or views of the U.S. Government. Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying U.S. Government authentication of information or endorsement of the author’s views.”
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