What’s up, Obama? You want to know if I’m talking about you behind your back? Why don’t you just ask me? Why you gotta sneak around and court order Verizon to give you my phone records?
Actually, I don’t think the Obama administration cares much about the goings-on of a suburban work-at-home mom who can’t seem to keep any of her plants alive. Nonetheless, the National Security Administration ordered a Verizon subsidiary to hand over all phone records of its clients on a daily basis.
The court order is wide-sweeping and all encompassing, as it calls for all phone records between the U.S. and foreign countries, as well as all domestic calls, including local calls. While the data collected doesn’t include substantive information (the content of the call), or the name, address, or financial information of the subscribers, it does include routing information, such as originating and terminating phone numbers, Mobile Subscriber Identity number, International Mobile Station Equipment Identity number, trunk identifier, calling card numbers, and time and duration of the calls.
The order was issued to Verizon Business Network Services in April and expires on July 19, 2013, unless it is extended. Verizon is the largest U.S. wireless provider.
Considering the fact that the Obama administration has prosecuted more government whistleblowers than all other administrations combined, it comes as no surprise that the court order also forbade Verizon from speaking to anyone about the order.
The first rule about tyrannical, untargeted citizen surveillance is you don’t talk about tyrannical, untargeted citizen surveillance.
The order comes as part of the Obama administration’s secret interpretation of section 215 of the Patriot Act, which, it has been suggested, vastly differs from public understanding of the Patriot Act.
In May 2011, during a debate about reauthorizing section 215, Wyden said forebodingly: “I want to deliver a warning this afternoon: when the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time a phone service has been found to be in cahoots with governmental efforts to keep tabs on the communications of U.S. citizens. AT&T was found to be using a splitter in its Folsom Street facility to send copies of all emails, search requests, and more directly to a room controlled by the NSA.
News reports first emerged in 2005 that the NSA had been intercepting Americans’ phone calls and emails. In 2006, news broke that the NSA had been collecting call data from Verizon, AT&T, and BellSouth to analyze patterns and identify possible terrorist activity.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said Thursday that the NSA’s Verizon tracking program has actually helped the agency head off a “significant domestic terrorist attack” in the last few years.
Image source: flickr.com