Silver Lining

Food for thought

Top US spy agency collects American phone records by top-secret order

Press TV

A top US spy agency has ordered one of the nation’s largest phone companies to collect and submit phone records of tens of millions of its American customers under a “top-secret” court order issued in April.

The secret order requires the major American phone company, Verizon, to provide US National Security Agency (NSA), the world’s largest spy organization, “with daily information on all telephone calls by its customers within the United States and from foreign locations into the United States,” The Washington Post reports Thursday.

The order, according to the daily, was signed off by “a judge from the secret court that oversees domestic surveillance” and may constitute “the broadest surveillance order” ever issued.

The order, the report adds, appears to confirm fears expressed earlier by Democratic Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, who made clear in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder last year that Americans would be “stunned” to find out about the details of the secret court orders.

“We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of . . . these secret court opinions,” their letters reportedly read. “As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows.”

It would further confirms persisting suspicions of civil liberties activists across America about the sweeping nature of US government’s surveillance measures on its own citizens through corporate commercial carriers under the laws hastily passed by American lawmakers following the suspicious September 11, 2001incidents in New York and near Washington DC that killed nearly 3,000 people.

The George W Bush administration at the time quickly blamed the shadowy al-Qaeda terror group for the incidents, using them as the pretext to begin two major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and hastily enact laws within the United States that many legal experts have deemed unconstitutional and in violation of basic civil liberties.

“This is a truly stunning revelation,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “This suggests that the government has been compiling a comprehensive record of Americans’ associations and possibly even their whereabouts.”

“Tell me how all of the metadata of Americans’ domestic conversations can be relevant to an authorized foreign intelligence or international terrorism investigation,” Goitein is further quoted as saying in the report.

The NSA, the report adds, is still gathering “massive amounts of information,” providing it with a detailed picture of people’s networks of friends and associates and others they are in contact with, in addition to the timing of all communications.

This is while US privacy advocates have maintained that the NSA spy agency are most likely collecting such information from all major phone and internet companies and that the practice has been going on for years.

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