US government is collecting millions of phone records from Verizon on a daily basis, courtesy secret court order

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In some rather disturbing news, it has been revealed that the US National Security Agency (NSA) is collecting the telephone records of millions of Americans making calls through Verizon’s phone service. The news came from The Guardian, who acquired information from a top secret court order which was issued in April of this year. The order was signed by Judge Roger Vinson of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The order requires Verizon to provide the NSA with information about all calls made via its network on an “ongoing, daily basis.” Furthermore, it pertains to any calls made in the US and between US citizens and those of other countries. Regardless of how you feel about the situation, it’s blindingly apparent that quite a few civil liberties were violated here.

The document clearly outlines the fact that under the Obama administration the related records were being collected in bulk, which means all calls are being recorded, whether they involve communication with a suspicious individual or not.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI near the end of April, which allowed them to collect data without any constraints during a three month period which ends on July 19. That means they’re still collecting the appropriate data.

If you’re wondering what information is being handed over, it includes the numbers of both parties involved in the call, their location data, the length of the call, unique identification numbers, and the time the call was made. The conversations are not recorded in any way, but still the agencies are collecting quite a bit of information without the parties involved knowing.

Several news sources approached Verizon, the NSA, the White House and the Department of Justice on the matter with no luck. It appears that Verizon is barred from discussing the information exchange or the issued court order, and it’s likely they would incur some pretty hefty legal ramifications for doing so.

The collected information is classified as “metadata,” which in turn doesn’t fall under the definition of communications. Because of that, authorities do not require warrants to access the said information. The definition of metadata was also broadened to include location data due to a 2005 court ruling in which a judge decided that cell location information was considered transactional data and not part of communications.

At this time, it is not clear whether or not Verizon is the only wireless carrier affected. It’s possible that all major networks have been issued a similar court order. Even worse, the court documents do not shed light on whether or not this practice will be ongoing or if it will end completely after the three month period.

Senior US Senator Dianne Feinstein revealed after the information was released that the court order did exist, and confirmed the three month period in which it’s being used.

US House Intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers made a statement to reporters in which he said that the information collection process is perfectly legal, and it was also approved by Congress. He claims that the Obama administration has not abused their power to collect said information. According to him, it even helped stop a “significant” attack on the US “within the past few years.” No further information was offered by the chairman other than that.

There’s a lot more to this whole situation, so if you’d like to read more, by all means visit the source link below. All in all, I find this very troubling indeed, and I know I won’t be the only one that feels that way.

Go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments below!

[via The Guardian]

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