Anger swells after NSA phone records collection revelations


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The scale of America's surveillance state was laid bare on Thursday as senior politicians revealed that the US counter-terrorism effort had swept up swaths of personal data from the phone calls of millions of citizens for years.

After the revelation by the Guardian of a sweeping secret court order that authorised the FBI to seize all call records from a subsidiary of Verizon, the Obama administration sought to defuse mounting anger over what critics described as the broadest surveillance ruling ever issued.

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Anger swells after NSA phone records collection revelations

  1. 1. UK and World newsA White House spokesman said that laws governing such orders are something thathave been in place for a number of years now. Photograph: Rex FeaturesThe scale of Americas surveillance state was laid bare on Thursday assenior politicians revealed that the US counter-terrorism effort had sweptup swaths of personal data from the phone calls of millions of citizens foryears.After the revelation by the Guardian of a sweeping secret court order thatauthorised the FBI to seize all call records from a subsidiary of Verizon,the Obama administration sought to defuse mounting anger over whatcritics described as the broadest surveillance ruling ever issued.A White House spokesman said that laws governing such orders "aresomething that have been in place for a number of years now" and werevital for protecting national security. Dianne Feinstein, the Democraticchairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, said the Verizon courtorder had been in place for seven years. "People want the homelandkept safe," Feinstein said.News US World Sports Comment Culture Business Money Environment Science Travel Tech Media Life & style DataOn the Guardian todayAnger swells after NSA phone recordscollection revelationsThis site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Find out more hereHideAnger swells after NSA phone recordscollection revelationsSenior politicians reveal that US counter-terrorism efforts haveswept up personal data from American citizens for years• NSA taps in to internet giants systems to mine user data,secret files revealEmailTweet thisShare 7556Share57Dan Roberts and Spencer Ackerman in WashingtonThe Guardian, Thursday 6 June 2013 18.58 EDTJump to comments (1334)World newsObama administrationWorld newsNewsArticle historyWorld newsObama administration ·United States · US politics· Barack Obama · Privacy· US national securityBusinessVerizon CommunicationsTechnologyData protection ·TelecomsLawUS constitution and civillibertiesMore newsMore on this storyPRISM scandal: techgiants flatly denyallowing NSA directaccess to serversSilicon Valleyexecutives insist theydid not know of secretPRISM program thatgrants access to emailsand search historyNSA taps in to internetgiants systems to mineuser data, secret filesMobileEdition: US About us SubscribeUK and World news Search
  2. 2. But as the implications of the blanket approval for obtaining phone datareverberated around Washington and beyond, anger grew among otherpoliticians.Intelligence committee member Mark Udall, who has previously warnedin broad terms about the scale of government snooping, said: "This sortof widescale surveillance should concern all of us and is the kind ofgovernment overreach Ive said Americans would find shocking." Formervice-president Al Gore described the "secret blanket surveillance" as"obscenely outrageous".The Verizon order was made under the provisions of the ForeignIntelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) as amended by the Patriot Act of2001, passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But one of the authors ofthe Patriot Act, Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, said hewas troubled by the Guardian revelations. He said that he had written tothe attorney general, Eric Holder, questioning whether "US constitutionalrights were secure".He said: "I do not believe the broadly drafted Fisa order is consistent withthe requirements of the Patriot Act. Seizing phone records of millions ofinnocent people is excessive and un-American."The White House sought to defend what it called "a critical tool inprotecting the nation from terrorist threats". White House spokesmanJosh Earnest said Fisa orders were used to "support important andhighly sensitive intelligence collection operations" on which members ofCongress were fully briefed."The intelligence community is conducting court-authorized intelligenceactivities pursuant to a public statute with the knowledge and oversight ofCongress and the intelligence community in both houses of Congress,"Earnest said.He pointed out that the order only relates to the so-called metadatasurrounding phone calls rather than the content of the calls themselves."The order reprinted overnight does not allow the government to listen inon anyones telephone calls," Earnest said."The information acquired does not include the content of anycommunications or the name of any subscriber. It relates exclusively tocall details, such as a telephone number or the length of a telephonecall."But such metadata can provide authorities with vast knowledge about acallers identity. Particularly when cross-checked against other publicrecords, the metadata can reveal someones name, address, driverslicence, credit history, social security number and more. Governmentanalysts would be able to work out whether the relationship between twopeople was ongoing, occasional or a one-off.The disclosure has reignited longstanding debates in the US over theproper extent of the governments domestic spying powers.Ron Wyden of Oregon, a member of the Senate intelligence committeewho, along with Udell, has expressed concern about the extent of USgovernment surveillance, warned of "sweeping, dragnet surveillance". Hesaid: "I am barred by Senate rules from commenting on some of thedetails at this time, However, I believe that when law-abiding Americanscall their friends, who they call, when they call, and where they call fromis private information."Collecting this data about every single phone call that every Americanmakes every day would be a massive invasion of Americans privacy."Beyond OrwellianNSA collecting phone records ofmillions of Verizon customers dailyNSA taps in to internet giants systemsto mine user data, secret files revealBlack Sabbath: We used to havecocaine flown in by private planeThe Cronut – the US pastry sensationthat must cross the AtlanticWorld newsWorld newsMusicLife and stylerevealRevealed: NSAcollecting phonerecords of millions ofAmericans dailyThe National SecurityAgency: surveillancegiant with eyes onAmericaEric Holder: JusticeDepartment will notprosecute reportersdoing their jobCivil liberties: Americanfreedom on the lineCourt order forcingVerizon to hand overcall data in place since2006Obamas Verizonsurveillance revealsmassive erosion of UScivil libertiesTelephone metadataand what it can tell theauthorities about youCould it happen inBritain?Verizon forced tohand over telephonedata – full court rulingObamas Verizon phonerecords collectioncarries on Bushs work
  3. 3. Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union,said: "From a civil liberties perspective, the program could hardly be anymore alarming. Its a program in which some untold number of innocentpeople have been put under the constant surveillance of governmentagents."It is beyond Orwellian, and it provides further evidence of the extent towhich basic democratic rights are being surrendered in secret to thedemands of unaccountable intelligence agencies."Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies haddisclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data bythe NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documentshave revealed the continuation of the practice under President Obama.The order names Verizon Business Services, a division of VerizonCommunications. In its first-quarter earnings report, published in April,Verizon Communications listed about 10 million commercial lines out of atotal of 121 million customers. The court order, which lasts for threemonths from 25 April, does not specify what type of lines are beingtracked. It is not clear whether any additional orders exist to coverVerizons wireless and residential customers, or those of other phonecarriers.Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to aspecific, named target suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group orforeign state, or a finite set of individually named targets. The unlimitednature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremelyunusual.Senators Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, andSaxby Chambliss, the vice chairman, speak to reporters about the NSA cull of phonerecords. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty ImagesFeinstein said she believed the order had been in place for some time.She said: "As far as I know this is the exact three-month renewal of whathas been the case for the past seven years. This renewal is carried outby the [foreign intelligence surveillance] court under the business recordssection of the Patriot Act. Therefore it is lawful. It has been briefed toCongress."The Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement that the secretVladimir Putin and his wife announcetheir separation in TV interviewTodays best videoSmartphone face-off: HTC One v SamsungGalaxy S4Charles Arthur compares two of the most popularnew smartphones: the HTC One and the SamsungGalaxy S471 commentsSurfing the perfectwaveMichael Fordhamtravels from SanFrancisco to LA lappingup American surfculture37 commentsHow to dress:flapper dressesJess Cartner-Morleypicks out some Gatsby-esque gems from thehigh streetJosé Mourinho:Cristiano Ronaldothinks he knowseverythingNew Chelsea managercriticises RonaldoGuardian US on TwitterThe latest news and comment from our team ofreporters, writers and editors in the USAuto update every minute On | Offmoorehn: Heres more on all the techcompanies denying any knowledge ofPRISM. 0 minutes agomoorehn: RT @ReformedBroker: Thispowerpoint slide designed by the people inWorld news
  4. 4. ;court order was unprecedented. "As far as we know this order from theFisa court is the broadest surveillance order to ever have been issued: itrequires no level of suspicion and applies to all Verizon [businessservices] subscribers anywhere in the US."The Patriot Acts incredibly broad surveillance provision purportedlyauthorizes an order of this sort, though its constitutionality is in questionand several senators have complained about it."Russell Tice, a retired National Security Agency intelligence analyst andwhistleblower, said: "What is going on is much larger and more systemicthan anything anyone has ever suspected or imagined."Although an anonymous senior Obama administration official said that"on its face" the court order revealed by the Guardian did not authorisethe government to listen in on peoples phone calls, Tice now believesthe NSA has constructed such a capability."I figured it would probably be about 2015" before the NSA had "thecomputer capacity … to collect all digital communications word for word,"Tice said. "But I think Im wrong. I think they have it right now."Please be aware that we will be performing essential maintenance work on the commenting system Friday 7June 2013 between 5am and 6am UK time. There will be a short period of downtime in that interval. Thank youfor your understanding.CommentsClick here to join the discussion.We cant load the discussion on because your web browser does not support allthe features that we need. If you cannot upgrade your browser to a newer version, you canaccess the discussion here.License/buy our content | Privacy policy | Terms of service | US Advertising | A - Z index | About© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.Tweet this EmailWhats this?More from the GuardianHouse Republicans pass astonishing bill to ban allabortions after 20 weeks 04 Jun 2013X Factor: Nicole Scherzinger ruled emphaticallyoffensive 03 Jun 2013In the digital economy, well soon all be working for free– and I refuse 05 Jun 2013NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizoncustomers daily 06 Jun 2013After Earth – review 06 Jun 2013Whats this?More from around the webTired of ccing your boss on every email? (WorkReimagined)10 Things BlackBerry Z10 Does That iPhone Cant( the Computer Mouse Extinct? (Tech Page One)8 College Degrees with the Worst Return on Investment( Worst Recession Ghost Towns in America (TheFiscal Times)• Follow our US team on a Twitter listcharge of our national security. 5 minutes agomoorehn: RT @nxthompson: So whenObama reads those 10 letters fromcitizens every night, is he just checkingtheir email?about 12 minutes ago1. 24 hoursAnger swells afterNSA phone recordscollection revelationsNSA taps in to internet giants systems to mineuser data, secret files revealNSA collecting phone records of millions ofVerizon customers dailyVerizon forced to hand over telephone data –full court rulingVladimir Putin and his wife announce theirseparation in TV interviewMore most viewedOn World newsLibya Syria Gaza US elections 2012Share ShareMost viewed LatestEurozone crisis7556ShareHot topics