Economics Magazine

Obama Administration Collects Verizon Phone Records On Millions Of Americans

Posted on the 06 June 2013 by Susanduclos @SusanDuclos
By Susan Duclos
Obama Administration Collects Verizon Phone Records On Millions Of Americans The US government is collecting the phone records of millions of US customers of Verizon under a top secret court order. Read the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order at The Guardian.
Via The Hill:
The information provided to the NSA did not include the content of conversations or customers’ identities but covered telephone numbers used and the length of calls.
The seizing of phone records by the NSA was first disclosed in 2006 during the Bush administration, and this is the first time it has been revealed that the practice was continued — and perhaps expanded — under President Obama.
An administration official defended the collection of data as a “critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States.”
“It allows counter terrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States,” the official added.
The news that the administration has been conducting secret surveillance on millions of ordinary citizens comes amid intensifying scrutiny over the DOJ’s spying on Associated Press and Fox News reporters, delivering another blow to President Obama’s already bruised reputation on civil liberties.

 The scope of the information being collected:
The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.
The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.
Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

AP:
The order was granted by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on April 25 and is good until July 19, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday. The order requires Verizon, one of the nation's largest telecommunications companies, on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries.

NYT:
For several years, two Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, have been cryptically warning that the government was interpreting its surveillance powers under that section of the Patriot Act in a way that would be alarming to the public if it knew about it. 
“We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted Section 215 of the Patriot Act,” they wrote last year in a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr
They added: “As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows. This is a problem, because it is impossible to have an informed public debate about what the law should say when the public doesn’t know what its government thinks the law says.” 
A spokesman for Senator Wyden did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment on the Verizon order. 
The senators were angry because the Obama administration described Section 215 orders as being similar to a grand jury subpoena for obtaining business records, like a suspect’s hotel or credit card records, in the course of an ordinary criminal investigation. The senators said the secret interpretation of the law was nothing like that.

As evidenced by the massive headlines and discussions dedicated to this newly revealed secret court order, even die-hard Obama supporters are showing no mercy to his administration over this expanded domestic surveillance.
The last thing the Obama administration needed at this time was yet another scandal to deal with, on top of the ones that have been rocking Washington for the last month.


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