Document reveals Verizon ordered to give NSA information on all U.S. phone calls in its system

By End the Lie

(Image credit: graffitiresearchlab)

(Image credit: graffitiresearchlab)

A top secret court order issued in April but just now revealed shows that the National Security Agency (NSA) is currently collecting detailed telephone records of all of the millions of American customers of Verizon wireless on a daily basis.

The order, obtained by the Guardian, shows that the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court granted the U.S. government the unlimited authority to obtain the records of all telephone calls in their system within the United States and between the U.S. and other countries.

While it was already known that Verizon handed over private records with no questions asked, this newly released document reveals a much more massive level of surveillance done at the behest of the FBI for the NSA.

Indeed, as Glenn Greenwald notes, it clearly shows 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.”

Then again, we already knew that the government kept dossiers on Americans who were not suspected of being linked to any terrorist activity. Now, however, we know that many more people are being caught up in the dragnet.

The order was issued on April 25 and orders Verizon to hand over data to the NSA on an “ongoing, daily basis” for a three month period ending July 19.

The order requires Verizon to produce all call detail records or “telephony metadata” including  “comprehensive communications routing information, including but not limited to” the phone numbers involved, the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number and International Mobile station Equipment (IMEI) number, the time and duration of the call, the trunk identifier, and telephone calling card numbers.

While Greenwald rightly notes that surveillance on this scale has been reported before, “this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice on a massive scale under President Obama.”

Typically, FISA court orders target a specific named target or set of individually named target suspected of somehow being involved with a terrorist group or foreign state. This surveillance has admittedly breached the Fourth Amendment and the secrecy surrounding the court and their opinions is downright absurd.

Before the Guardian published their report on Wednesday, they reportedly approached the NSA, Department of Justice and the White House itself for comment, all of which declined.

The Guardian also reportedly gave the agencies “the opportunity to raise specific security concerns regarding the publication of the court order,” perhaps due to the Justice Department’s AP probe.

It is unsurprising that Verizon declined comment since the court order specifically states that “no person shall disclose to any other person that the FBI or NSA has sought or obtained tangible things under this Order” other than to comply with the order, obtain legal advice or when given specific permission.

Since the “metadata” mentioned above is not limited to those items, the order also likely covers cell site location data since a 2005 court ruling determined that the nearest cell tower a phone was connected to was considered transactional data. That means location data could be reconstructed from the records as well.

“While the order itself does not include either the contents of messages or the personal information of the subscriber of any particular cell number, its collection would allow the NSA to build easily a comprehensive picture of who any individual contacted, how and when, and possibly from where, retrospectively,” according to Greenwald.

Greenwald states that the massive scope of this surveillance may have been what Sens. Ron Wyden and Mark Udall referring to when they said, “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].”

“We’ve certainly seen the government increasingly strain the bounds of ‘relevance’ to collect large numbers of records at once — everyone at one or two degrees of separation from a target — but vacuuming all metadata up indiscriminately would be an extraordinary repudiation of any pretence of constraint or particularized suspicion,” Julian Sanchez, a surveillance expert at the Cato Institute, said.

The order does precisely what Sanchez said by “vacuuming all metadata up indiscriminately.” This reveals new depths of the surveillance program of the American people carried out by the United States.

One can only imagine what remains to be uncovered.

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2 Responses to Document reveals Verizon ordered to give NSA information on all U.S. phone calls in its system

  1. Nora June 6, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    “While the order itself does not include either the contents of messages or the personal information of the subscriber of any particular cell number, its collection would allow the NSA to build easily a comprehensive picture of who any individual contacted, how and when, and possibly from where, retrospectively,” according to Greenwald.

    Uh, is it just me, or does this utter bullshit completely contradict itself? I believe I just saw a piggy fly out of the window! We know they’re spying on us and reading our private communications. We just don’t know WHY. Is EVERYONE now a criminal in the eyes of the criminal government? A better question would be, why aren’t we spying on them, since clearly there is good reason to.

    Reply
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