National Security Brief: U.S. Secretly Collecting Phone Call Records From Verizon

The Guardian reports:

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

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.

The White House defended the program in a statement on Thursday, saying the phone data is a “critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States.”


An administration official said “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.”

In other news:

  • The AP reports: Lawyers for Guantanamo Bay detainees urged a federal judge Wednesday to stop what they describe as new “genital searches” for detainees who want to meet with their lawyers.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports: Former Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta inadvertently disclosed top-secret information to a Hollywood screenwriter about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, according to a draft Defense Department report and former officials familiar with the events.
  • The New York Times reports: Nawaz Sharif took office as Pakistan’s prime minister for an unparalleled third time on Wednesday, vowing to tackle the country’s crippling electricity crisis and issuing an urgent call for the end of American drone strikes on Pakistani soil.