The Guardian has secured documents that demonstrate just how vast and unrestrained state surveillance is in Barack Obama's super-transparent, post-War on Terror America:
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.
The content of calls is not collected but everything else is, including both numbers involved, location data, and other unique identifiers.
The information is classed as "metadata", or transactional information, rather than communications, and so does not require individual warrants to access. The document also specifies that such "metadata" is not limited to the aforementioned items. A 2005 court ruling judged that cell site location data – the nearest cell tower a phone was connected to – was also transactional data, and so could potentially fall under the scope of the order.
And read the actual court document here.
Update (Thursday June 6, @8.30 a.m. ET): Glenn Greenwald, who broke this story at The Guardian, appeared on NPR this morning (no link yet) and fleshed out various other points worth thinking about. He noted that the request for the records was based on a section of The Patriot Act which was specifically designed to allow law enforcement an intelligence agencies to target individuals, not do such broad dragnet-style snooping. Additionally, Verizon is legally gagged by the order, meaning they cannot comment in any way on the action. Unanswered questions include whether this records request is a rare occurrence or simply an ongoing action that includes other phone carriers. Given that such requests were common under the Bush administration and the Obama administration's interest in surveillance, there's every reason to believe it is the latter.
Read Greenwald's archive at The Guardian.
Watch Reason TV's Surveillance After the Boston Bombing: Do More Cameras Fight Terrorism or Violate Our Privacy Rights?: