NSA Collecting Call Data From Millions Of Verizon Customers


Remember when President Obama was against this sort of thing? “This administration…puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide,” then-Senator Obama said in 2007. “I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to take out the terrorists without undermining our Constitution and our freedom. That means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens. No more National Security Letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime. No more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient. That is not who we are. That is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists.”

“We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary. … There are no shortcuts to protecting America.”

About those flowery words, Mr. President:

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

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.

You can read the order here.

It’s worth remembering that Republicans defended this sort of thing under President Bush, which should serve as a lesson for favoring the expansion of government power when your guy is in power. When the government accumulates to itself more power, it usually keeps that power forever. Long after the people you trust with that power are replaced with people you might trust less.

I’ve never understood, for instance, why Democrats want to give the government so much power over our health care. Sure, when we have Democrats in power, that means manipulating health care policy toward liberal goals. But what do you think would happen to mandates for abortion and contraception coverage if we had a President Rick Santorum?

This is why the best government policy is usually no policy at all.