According to a breaking report from the UK Guardian, Barack Obama’s National Security Agency has been collecting phone records of millions of domestic customers of Verizon under a court order obtained in April. The order requires Verizon to turn over phone records on an “ongoing, daily basis” to the NSA, both within the US and between the US and international sources.
The Guardian reports: “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) handed over the order to the FBI on April 25, and gave them a three month blanket surveillance clearance. That means that numbers of both parties, location data, call duration, and time of all calls are subject to government surveillance. That makes the Obama administration’s oversight essentially unlimited.
The NSA, White House and Department of Justice all declined comment. The court order says that Verizon is forbidden to let customers know about the surveillance. Verizon also declined comment.
The order forces Verizon to turn over electronic versions of “all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad” … or, more ominously, “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.” Every single day, Verizon must turn over that information.
The Guardian says that Verizon may not be the only cell-phone provider targeted with the order, and adds that “previous reporting has suggested the NSA has collected cell records from all major mobile networks.”
The law legalizing this sort of surveillance is 50 USC 1861, a provision of the Patriot Act allowing requests of business records.
This sort of controversy arose in 2006 under President Bush under the auspices of the war on terror. President Obama essentially declared the war on terror over in April, at about the same point the administration received its blanket surveillance go-ahead from the FISA court.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).