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Telecom firm fails in first known FISA court surveillance challenge

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telecom company fails FISA challengeFor the first known time since the U.S. government began collecting data about Americans’ phone calls in bulk after the 9/11 attacks, a telecommunications company has questioned those surveillance activities in court, according to a judge’s opinion unsealed on Friday.

That company, whose name was redacted from the opinion, did not directly challenge the government’s right to make companies turn over “telephony metadata” — information about the phone numbers customers dial and the time, data and duration of such calls.

Instead, on Jan. 22, the company asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which has routinely issued orders approving such surveillance, to explain its legal reasoning in the wake of a recent decision by another federal court that ruled such metadata collection unconstitutional.

Proceedings in the FISC are often secret, and Friday's unsealing was the first time since the inception of bulk surveillance that one of the telecommunications companies targeted for such surveillance is known to have used the court itself to question those tactics.

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