Government Access to Phone Calling Activity and Related Records: Legal Authorities [February 2, 2010] [open pdf - 203KB]
"Public interest in the means by which the government may collect telephone call records has been raised by ongoing revelations regarding alleged intelligence activity by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). According to a USA Today article from May 11, 2006, the NSA allegedly sought and obtained records of telephone numbers called and received from millions of telephones within the United States from three telephone service providers; a fourth reportedly refused to provide such records. Additionally, a series of reports issued by the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General (DOJ OIG), most recently in January of 2010, indicate that, between 2002 and 2006, consumer records held by telephone companies had been provided to the FBI through the use of 'exigent letters' and other informal methods that fell outside of the national security letter (NSL) process embodied in statute and internal FBI policies." This report discusses several statutory provisions that relate to this case, including "'Pen Registers and Trap and Trace Devices for Foreign Intelligence and International Terrorism Investigations under FISA; Pen Registers or Trap and Trace Devices Generally, and for Use in an Ongoing Criminal Investigation; Access to Business Records for Foreign Intelligence and International Terrorism Investigations; Access to Stored Electronic Communications and Transactional Records;' and the 'Communications Act of 1934.'"
CRS Report for Congress, RL33424