The collection of phone records from cellular giant Verizon was authorized by the government under the Patriot Act passed after 911. The National Security Agency is indiscriminately collecting American citizens’ phone records under a top secret court order. Civil liberties groups are outraged at such blatant disregard of individual’s rights by the U.S. government.
The FBI sought an order to require Verizon to provide detailed phone records of millions of Americans’ communication transactions. The order compels a subsidiary of the phone company to provide the NSA with records of phone calls from U.S. customers within the country and from foreign locations. Spokespersons for Verizon and the FBI declined to comment on the order.
The order given upon a secret court order, “does not allow the government to listen in on anyone’s telephone calls,” A senior Obama administration official commented. It is believed the focus is on attaining metadata. Metadata provides information about other data which is often interlinked in certain circumstances. Specific information concerning the application of the order was not made readily available to the media or the public.
Many civil liberties groups have suspected that the U.S. was given sweeping surveillance authority over commercial carriers with the passing of the Patriot Act. The legislation laid the ground work for inventive measures in information gathering of private citizens. The 911 attacks generated the legislation in fear of future supposed occurrences.
A law expert who spoke on anonymity stated the order appears to be a renewal of a similar order first issued by the same court in 2006. The order is reissued routinely every 90 days and that it is not related to any particular investigation by the FBI or any other agency. White house officials have been mute concerning the particulars of past practices concerning the order.
Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice stated, “This suggests that the government has been compiling a comprehensive record of Americans’ associations and possibly even their whereabouts.” She appeared outraged at such postulations related to the issue.
Obama officials contend that information obtained is for the good of national security and best interest of Americans. Officials further state all three branches of the government is regularly and fully briefed on the use of information gathered. It is believed that these intelligence steps are a critical tool in protecting the public against terrorist threats to the nation.
Written By: Thomas Barr Jr.