In July, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court undertook to collect more detailed statistics than those required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Among other things, the latter calls for an annual tally of surveillance applications made, and a tally of those granted, modified, or denied. Of course, each year, over 99% of U.S. submissions made to the FISC receive court approval. But that isn't the whole story, judging by this letter, sent last week from the FISC's Presiding Judge Reggie Walton to members of Congress. In it, the Judge Walton reveals the extent to which, during the first quarter of FY2013, government applications were modified during the FISC process.
Of the total submissions the Department of Justice made between July 1 and September 30 to the FISC, 24.4% received "substantives changes to the information provided by the government or to the authorities granted as a result of Court inquiry or action." The FISC does not count typo corrections as "substantive changes."
The letter further says that the first quarter data represent "an attempt to measure the results of what are, typically, informal communications between the branches." According to the letter, the FISC will continue to collect such information---in order to ascertain whether the first quarter data presents an aberration or a trend---and report to Congress and the public going forward.