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White House defends intentional invasion of American citizens’ privacy

By JULIE PACE
June 6, 2013

Is it safe to use?  (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, File)

Is it safe to use? (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, File)

The White House on Thursday defended the National Security Agency’s need to collect telephone records of U.S. citizens, calling such information “a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats.”

While defending the practice, a senior Obama administration official did not confirm a newspaper report that the NSA has been collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon under a top secret court order.

The order was granted by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on April 25 and is good until July 19, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday. The order requires Verizon, one of the nation’s largest telecommunications companies, on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries.

The newspaper said the document, a copy of which it had obtained, shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of U.S. citizens were being collected indiscriminately and in bulk, regardless of whether they were suspected of any wrongdoing.

The Associated Press could not authenticate the order because documents from the court are classified.

The administration official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to publicly discuss classified matters.

Verizon spokesman Ed McFadden said Wednesday the company had no comment. The NSA had no immediate comment.

Verizon Communications Inc. listed 121 million customers in its first-quarter earnings report this April — 98.9 million wireless customers, 11.7 million residential phone lines and about 10 million commercial lines. The court order didn’t specify which type of phone customers’ records were being tracked.

Under the terms of the order, the phone numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as are location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered, The Guardian said.

The administration official said, “On its face, the order reprinted in the article does not allow the government to listen in on anyone’s telephone calls.”

The broad, unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is unusual. FISA court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets. NSA warrantless wiretapping during the George W. Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks was very controversial.

The FISA court order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compelled Verizon to provide the NSA with electronic copies of “all call detail records or telephony metadata created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls,” The Guardian said.

The law on which the order explicitly relies is the “business records” provision of the USA Patriot Act.

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AP Intelligence Writer Kimberly Dozier contributed to this report.
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Copyright  © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

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7 Responses to White House defends intentional invasion of American citizens’ privacy

  1. woody188

    June 6, 2013 at 10:25 am

    NPR led listeners to believe this morning that this FISA order was in connection to the Boston bombing, without saying it actually was. My problem with that is, if they know the number the bomber was using, why the need for the blanket order for all user records instead of tying it to just the single user record and calls made to and from that number?

    Clearly these dragnets fly in the face of reason and are not Constitutional. How can we claim to be secure in our effects and communication with this going on?

  2. Wayne K Dolik

    June 6, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    When this information gets in the wrong hands, no one will be safe. Tell Verizon when the contract is up “YOU’RE FIRED”. Vote with your feet.

    And, Woody you are right in that we are not safe in our effects, papers and conversations. And, tell your Congress Criter to grow a pair. Defund the Constitutional Usurpers.

  3. griff6r

    June 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    When Bush did it he was trampling on our rights, so cried the Left. We desperatley needed Obama and the Democrats to right the wrongs of those evil, rights-trampling Republicans.

    Remember the propaganda pictures of Obama taping the Constitution back together after his election?

    We are a blissful people.

  4. keith

    June 6, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    Griff6r wrote: “When Bush did it he was trampling on our rights, so cried the Left. We desperatley needed Obama and the Democrats to right the wrongs of those evil, rights-trampling Republicans.”

    All of which is simply more proof (as if we needed any) that the Democrats and Republicans are simply two factions of the same “country club”.

    …..and have been for decades.

    • Carl Nemo **==

      June 6, 2013 at 10:16 pm

      With reference to the two parties merging I thought you and others would enjoy this cartoon penned by Ben Garrison back 2010. Click on the toon for a larger presentation. It succinctly provides a visual confirmation of the predicament this nation finds itself in these seeming end times for a once free Republic, now simply a caricature of such as a bankster controlled duopoly.

      It’s titled “The March of Tyranny”

      http://garrisongraphics.blogspot.com/2010/08/march-of-tyranny.html

      Carl Nemo **==

  5. woody188

    June 6, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    Heard Diane Feinstein try to defend this practice. It’s now known this is an ongoing effort that they renew every 90 days and has been running for at least the last 7 years. She seemed annoyed that anyone might question Senate approval of the secret program. It can be assumed that all major communications companies are involved.

    Remember when I wrote about the secret interpretation of the PATRIOT Act?

    It seems this program is deemed “legal” via that secret interpretation of section 215. This was what librarians protested and worried about the government analyzing patron reading habits. Who would have imagined our Constitutional scholar of a President, who was elected because he said he would restore our freedom lost under President Junior, would decided that his fellow Americans would be OK with his administration keeping tabs on all our phone records, email, and even our Internet browsing and search terms!

  6. Keith

    June 7, 2013 at 6:04 am

    It seems to me these multiple offenses have now risen to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors”.

    In particular, they are an absolutely clear violation of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution (which Mr. Obama swore to uphold…not once, but TWICE!) against unreasonable search and seizure.

    In case you’ve all forgotten, that Amendment reads:
    “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

    Clearly, our last two Presidents (Obama and W…with the willing assistance of the Congress) have now turned our once proud nation into a police state. And we’ve let them get away with it.

    It is often said that we get the government we deserve.

    I say we get the government we ALLOW.