The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April,To see the rest of the lengthy article, click here.
customers of Verizon, one of America's largest
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
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.
Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice on a massive scale under President Obama.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual. Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target who is suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets.
The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compels Verizon to produce to the NSA 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 order directs Verizon to "continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this order". It specifies that the records to be produced include "session identifying information", such as "originating and terminating number", the duration of each call, telephone calling card numbers, trunk identifiers, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, and "comprehensive communication routing information".
The information is classed as "metadata", or transactional information, rather than communications, and so does not require individual warrants to access. The document also specifies that such "metadata" is not limited to the aforementioned items. A 2005 court ruling judged that cell site location data – the nearest cell tower a phone was connected to – was also transactional data, and so could potentially fall under the scope of the order.
|Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)|
Graham's response to Rand's declaration?
"I see the threat to the average American, radical Islam coming to our backyard trying to destroy our way of life. He sees the threat (from) the government that's trying to stop the attack. I'm more threatened by the radical Islamists than I am the government agencies who are trying to protect us..."Graham may now be in a minority in his own party when it comes to that view. Republican voters seem to be increasingly concerned about eroding civil liberties even more so than Democrats these days. Such concern fits into a natural distrust of government that is inherent in conservative political philosophy. That distrust of government is one of the trends that fueled the rise of theTea Party.
This sort of issue may well propel Rand Paul to the front of the pack should he run for the Republican nomination in 2016. While some Republicans claim that his more isolationist stance on foreign policy issues will doom his chances, I don't buy it. First, very few voters vote on foreign policy. Second, in addition to become more supportive of civil liberties, Republicans have become increasingly isolationist. Sen. Rand Paul position on civil liberties and foreign policy is not only becoming popular in the Republican Party, its popular in the general electorate.