Friday, June 14, 2013

Judicial Wordplay and the NSA

In my post the other day about the blockbuster leaks regarding NSA surveillance, including the alleged PRISM program, I even cited some case law: In re Directives [redacted text] pursuant to Section 105B of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, 551 F.3d 1004, 1015 (2008). I found this case on Westlaw and didn't realize at the time that is one of the very few decisions that has ever been published out of the FISA court.

I joked about how there was even a redaction in the case title—the name of what I called the "brave service provider" who had challenged the NSA procedures on behalf of its customers. Today we learned the identity of that service provider: Yahoo!

For once, the exclamation point is appropriate. I'm almost tempted to put one of those Spanish upside down exclamation points in front of it for good measure.

Anyhow, I was perusing the opinion again today, and noticed this passage:
The [Protect America Act] was a stopgap measure. By its terms, it sunset on February 16, 2008. Following a lengthy interregnum, the lapsed provisions were repealed on July 10, 2008, through the instrumentality of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, Pub.L. No. 110-261, § 403, 122 Stat. 2436, 2473 (2008). But because the certifications and directives involved in the instant case were issued during the short shelf life of the PAA, they remained in effect. See FISA Amendments Act of 2008 § 404(a)(1). We therefore assess the validity of the actions at issue here through the prism of the PAA.
We now know exactly what that "prism" was. I have no doubt that this wordplay was intentional, given the cheekiness of the rest of the opinion and that Judge Selya, the author, is well known for his "distinctive writing style."

Perhaps the rest of the opinion deserves a very, very close reading to see what other secret messages it contains.

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