The NSA (National Security Agency) is allegedly collecting the phone records of all Verizon customers as a result of a secret court order that was issued earlier this year.
This order was put into effect by the super top secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on April 25th and is valid until July 19th the report states. This order forces Verizon, of the the biggest telecom companies in the US, on an “ongoing, daily basis” to provide the NSA direct information on all phone calls within it’s systems both within the USA and abroad.
The initial report stated that for the first time under the Obama administration, the private communications records of millions of USA and International citizens were being harvested and saved “in bulk”, regardless if these individuals were suspected of any wrongdoing.
The Guardian newspaper (which broke the story) is unsure “whether Verizon is the only cell phone provider to be targeted with such an order, although previous reporting has suggested the NSA has collected cell records from all major mobile networks. It is also unclear from the leaked documents whether the three-moth order was a one-off, or the latest in a series of similar orders.”
This unauthorized disclosure of personal information has already ignited a longstanding debate within the United States regarding the overreach of a governments domestic spying powers.
A government senior administrative official stated earlier, “As we have publicly stated before, all three branches of government are involved in reviewing and authorizing intelligence collection under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Congress passed that act and is regularly and fully briefed on how it is used, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizes such collection. There is a robust legal regime in place governing all activities conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. That regime has been briefed to and approved by the Court. And, activities authorized under the Act are subject to strict controls and procedures under oversight of the Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the FISA Court, to ensure that they comply with the Constitution and laws of the United States and appropriately protect privacy and civil liberties.”
This extremely broad and unlimited nature of recording by the NSA is unusual to say the least. FISA court orders normally direct the production of records targeting individuals who are suspected of being related to a terrorist group or foreign state.
The FISA court order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, persuaded Verizon to hand over to the NSA electronic copies of “all call detail records or telephony metadata created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls,” The reporting newspaper the Guardian said.
“Privacy advocates have long warned that allowing the government to collect and store unlimited ‘metadata’ is a highly invasive form of surveillance of citizens’ communications activities,” The Guardian points out. “Those records enable the government to know the identity of every person with whom an individual communicates electronically, how long they spoke, and their location at the time of the communication. Such metadata is what the US government has long attempted to obtain in order to discover an individual’s network of associations and communication patterns. The request for the bulk collection of all Verizon domestic telephone records indicates that the agency is continuing some version of the data-mining program begun by the Bush administration in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack.”
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