Government Gathers Phone Records of Verizon Customers

At the request of the FBI, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ordered a Verizon subsidiary to surrender the telephone records of its U.S. business customers to the National Security Agency for at least a three month period beginning last April 25.

The startling disclosure was reported last night by Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian. A copy of the Top Secret FISC order itself was also posted online by the Guardian.

Several features of the operation are problematic, to say the least. The FISC order is sweeping in scope, encompassing “all” call metadata (telephone numbers of callers and recipients, time, duration and more, though not the substantive contents of any conversation). It is unfocused on any designated target of investigation. It is prospective, requiring reporting of future telephone calls that have not yet taken place. And as such, it would seem to exceed any reasonable presumption of what the consent of the governed would allow.

At first glance, this appears to be a massive overreach by the government, as well as a massive failure of congressional oversight and judicial review to curb the Administration’s excess. (NYT, WP, WSJ)

3 Responses to “Government Gathers Phone Records of Verizon Customers”

  1. Allen Thomson June 6, 2013 at 12:11 PM #

    Since the NSA has no domestic law enforcement powers, this story looks to be mostly about FBI interests. NSA, because of its technical resources, is basically acting as a contract collector/processor for the Bureau. (It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if NSA, in turn, farmed the work out to its private-sector contractors.)

  2. George Smith June 6, 2013 at 7:51 PM #

    And the other shoe dropped today, PRISM which, at the taxpayer friendly cost of 20 million dollars, has the NSA collecting data directly off the servers of all the American Internet giants, from Google to Apple to Yahoo to Microsoft, etc. The US business have, in turn, gone Sgt. Hans Georg Schultz, “[We] know nothink!”

    Hey, the Chinese are spying on us, didn’t you hear?!

  3. Cindy Faith June 10, 2013 at 8:16 PM #

    Operative word: metadata.

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