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Thread: Obama Administration NSA Spying on Americans

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    Default Obama Administration NSA Spying on Americans

    Obama defends phone record seizures


    Video Link

    WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is defending the government's secret seizure of millions of domestic telephone records from Verizon, saying the data collection program “has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States.”

    A senior administration official released a statement Thursday after the British newspaper The Guardian first reported the secret operation. The paper posted on its website a classified court order that requires the telecommunications company to turn over daily records with the length, location and time of individual phone calls, as well as phone numbers.

    The official did not confirm the existence of the order, which is marked "Top Secret." It was issued in late April by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret court that meets in Washington, and allowed the government to collect the bulk data until July 19. It's unclear if the 90-day order was a renewal of a standing request.

    "The information acquired does not include the content of any communications or the name of any subscriber," the official said. "It relates exclusively to metadata, such as a telephone number or the length of a call.

    The official said telephone data "allows counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States.”
    The official requested anonymity to discuss the counterterrorism program.

    President Obama has come under increasing criticism from civil liberties groups and others who accuse the White House of masking government action in unnecessary secrecy.

    The criticism has generally focused on the lack of transparency about targeted killings of suspected terrorists and militants overseas. It intensified recently after the Justice Department secretly subpoenaed telephone records from the Associated Press, and obtained a warrant to examine emails of a Fox News reporter.

    In defending the data collection program, the administration official sought to spread responsibility, noting that “all three branches” of government were tasked with review and oversight of surveillance.

    The court order was authorized under a provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that allows the government to collect business records in bulk if its requests are approved by the FISA court.

    "There is a robust legal regime in place governing all activities conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act," the official said. He said that involves oversight by the Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the FISA court.

    The disclosure of the order, which has not been independently verified by NBC News, comes after the Obama administration has taken fire for a Justice Department subpoena of Associated Press phone records.

    Holder told NBC News Wednesday that he has no intention of stepping down from his job despite calls by some congressional Republicans for his resignation, citing the AP seizure.

    Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, called the collection of call data as described in the Guardian report “an outrageous breach of Americans’ privacy” in a news release Thursday. “This bulk data collection is being done under interpretations of the law that have been kept secret from the public. Significant FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] court opinions that determine the scope of our laws should be declassified.”

    Verizon had 98.9 million wireless customers at the end of the first quarter this year, according to an earnings report released in April, as well as about 11.7 million residential and 10 million commercial lines. It is not clear whether other parts of Verizon might have received similar orders.

    The order explicitly prohibits any person from disclosing that the NSA or FBI Investigation has sought records under the order.

    “Now that this unconstitutional surveillance effort has been revealed, the government should end it and disclose its full scope, and Congress should initiate an investigation,” Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “This disclosure also highlights the growing gap between the public’s and the government’s understandings of the many sweeping surveillance authorities enacted by Congress.”

    The law on which the order explicitly relies is the "business records" provision of the USA Patriot Act.

    Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, both Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a March 2012 letter to Attorney General Eric Holder that most Americans would “stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted section 215 of the Patriot Act.”

    “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,” the senators wrote in the letter. “This is a problem, because it is impossible to have an informed public debate about what the law should say when the public doesn’t know what its government thinks the law says.”

    Former vice president Al Gore called the practices described in the order “obscenely outrageous” in a message posted on Twitter Wednesday night. “In digital era, privacy must be a priority,” Gore wrote. “Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous.”

    The order is the first concrete evidence that U.S. intelligence officials are continuing a broad campaign of domestic surveillance that began under President George W. Bush and caused great controversy when it was first exposed, according to Reuters.
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    Default Re: Obama seizing Verizon phone records

    Boehner: Obama must explain Verizon user tracking

    23 Comments

    By Robert Schroeder

    WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- President Barack Obama should explain to Americans why the U.S. government's collection of phone records from Verizon VZ +2.32% customers is necessary, House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday. Boehner at a press briefing said it's important for Obama to detail why such tools are "critical" to protecting Americans. The Guardian reported late Wednesday that a U.S. court order granted to the FBI orders Verizon to hand over data to the National Security Agency.


    Obama Verizon Scandal: Will This Finally Turn Liberals Against Obama?





    Obama Verizon Scandal Will This Finally Turn Liberals Against Obama

    Exactly a month after President Obama told Ohio State graduates to “reject voices that warn about government tyranny,” The Guardian is reporting that at least as far back as April of this year, the FBI has demanded that Verizon turn over records of every call made by its customers in the United States and all incoming calls from abroad to its U.S. customers. While many liberals have been offering defenses of the current administration, and some have even been apologetic, this latest scandal may be the breaking point that turns Democrats and Independents against the president.

    With reason, the presidents supporters have been able to defend him on the topics of Benghazi, the IRS targeting, and the subpoena of AP phone records. It seems likely that warnings of the security situation in Benghazi never left the State Department, that the IRS acted alone, and that the Justice Department could be given the benefit of the doubt for the subpoena of AP records, which were after all obtained legally by subpoena.

    In fact, in a poll released Wednesday, President Obama’s approval rating remains essentially unchanged over the last two months, holding steady at 48% despite the Washington controversies. What this suggests is that thus far, not surprisingly, opinions about these issues have been highly partisan.

    Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) says, “when the media repeats the word ‘scandals’ you are repeating partisan lines. They are issues that have occurred that have to be addressed. I don’t think they rise to the level of a scandal.” Others like Connolly are downplaying the recent slate of scandal. “I don’t think there is any long-term political impact on House Democrats for any of this stuff,” said Rep. Jim McGovern. “There clearly needs to be more accountability at the IRS and I think that will be taken care of. I think the administration has been handling it correctly.”

    White House controversies of administrations past have usually had similar reaction, where approximately 25% are well informed with opinions divided along partisan lines. But while the President’s Party base has remained faithful throughout what USA Today said was “one of the most challenging weeks at the White House for the Obama administration,” independents are more skeptical.

    The president’s approval rating has dropped among independents, from 37% in April to 28% now. A major reason for this is that, by a 44% to 28% margin, more independents say the administration was involved in the IRS decision than say it was not. This most recent NSA scandal may exacerbate the President’s problem, and could even force some civil libertarians in his own Party to turn on him.

    Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Ron Wyden (D-Or.) have been warning for some time about the widespread nature of the Obama's administration domestic surveillance activities, sending a letter to Attorney General Holder and openly criticizing the Justice Department for misleading the American public on their use of the PATRIOT Act.

    Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Or.) agreed, adding: "This type of secret bulk data collection is an outrageous breach of Americans' privacy.”
    "In digital era, privacy must be a priority," tweeted former vice president Al Gore. "Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?"

    Others, still, are claiming this isn’t even a scandal. MSNBC.com Executive Editor Richard Wolffe said, “I’m kind of scratching my head over the outrage on this one,” Wolffe began. “What was outrageous under the Bush administration, what really troubled people, was that there was warrantless. They were doing this without going to court. That was the key principle here.”

    The top GOP and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss, added that the monitoring of phone records has been going legally for years, and Congress has been briefed about it.

    "It's called protecting America," Feinstein told reporters. "I understand privacy, Sen. Chambliss understands privacy, we want to protect people's private rights and that is why this is carefully done."

    However, even Wolffe conceded that “Frankly, these courts actually never reject an application.”

    The minimal effects the other scandals on polling data can be traced to the partisan divide between supporters and opponents of the White House. It would appear though that this controversy if different from all the rest that have plagued the Obama White House recently because outrage over the NSA's phone-record collection does not seem to be clearly partisan, with the government's surveillance program finding support in both parties. What will determine how this plays out in terms of Obama support is to what extent the public associates itself with civil libertarianism, and that remains to be seen.




    NOT THIS LIBERAL

    Sen. Graham: ‘I’m a Verizon customer. I don’t mind turning over records’


    By David Edwards
    Thursday, June 6, 2013 9:59 EDT


    Topics: fox newsSen. Lindsey GrahamVerizon

    Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Thursday defended the National Security Agency’s (NSA) practice of collecting phone records from millions of Americans, and said that he had no problem with being spied on.

    During an interview on Fox News, Graham was asked to react to the news that Verizon had been required to provide phone records metadata to the NSA on a daily basis.

    “I think we should be concerned about terrorists trying to infiltrate our country and attack us and trying to coordinate activities from overseas within inside the country,” he explained. “Under the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)] law, you just can’t track people’s phone calls, you’ve got to have a reasonable belief that that the people you’re monitoring — in terms of monitoring conversations — one of the person is involved in terrorism. So, you’re trying to data mine and find out, you know, these numbers that we know are in the hands of guys who they are calling. And then once you find a match, you can monitor.”

    Fox News host Steve Doocy pointed out that he was a Verizon customer and had been “tracked by the NSA following all our phone detail.”

    “I’m a Verizon customer,” Graham revealed. “I don’t mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government’s going to make sure that they try to match up a known terrorist phone with somebody in the United States. I don’t think you’re talking to terrorists. I know you’re not. I know I’m not. So, we don’t have anything to worry about.”

    “I’m glad the activity is going on, but it is limited to tracking people who are suspected to be terrorists and who they may be talking to,” the South Carolina Republican added.

    “Are you sure?” co-host Brian Kilmeade wondered. “That’s what it’s supposed to be, but are you sure they’re still doing that?”

    “Yes, I’m sure that’s what they’re doing,” Graham insisted. “I’m sure we should be doing this.”

    Watch this video from Fox News’ Fox & Friends, broadcast June 6, 2013.




    NSA seizes phone records of Verizon customers


    The Washington Times
    Wednesday, June 5, 2013



    The National Security Agency is collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon under a top-secret court order issued in April, according to a report Wednesday evening in the Guardian newspaper.

    The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, a publication in the United Kingdom, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries.


    SEE RELATED: White House defends NSA collection of Verizon phone records; insists no eavesdropping


    The order is in force until July 19, according to the court order. The left-leaning British newspaper said the order was granted to the FBI on April 25.

    The document indicates that the Obama administration is collecting phone records of millions of citizens in bulk, whether or not they are suspected of wrongdoing. The order was signed by Judge Roger Vinson of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, according to the document posted online by the Guardian.

    A spokeswoman for the White House national security council declined to comment on the report Wednesday night.

    Former Vice President Al Gore commented on his Twitter account: “In digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?”

    And the ACLU’s deputy legal director, Jameel Jaffer, said the program “could hardly be more alarming.”

    “It’s a program in which millions of innocent people have been put under the constant surveillance of government agents,” Mr. Jaffer said. “It’s analogous to the FBI stationing an agent outside every home in the country to track who goes in and who comes out. It is beyond Orwellian, and it provides further evidence of the extent to which basic democratic rights are being surrendered in secret to the demands of unaccountable intelligence agencies.”


    SEE RELATED: GOP Sen. Graham says he’s ‘glad’ NSA is collecting phone records


    It was not immediately clear why the order singles out Verizon for a general seizure of records and does not mention AT&T, Sprint or other major cellphone providers.

    The order states says Verizon “shall produce to the National Security Agency (NSA) upon service of this Order, and continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this Order … an electronic copy of the following tangible things: all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

    As word of the court order broke Wednesday evening, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in an interview that the government needs to strike a better balance between press freedom and safeguarding national secrets.

    “I’m a little concerned that things have gotten a little out of whack,” Mr. Holder told NBC. “I think that we can do a better job than we have. We can reform those regulations, reform those guidelines, to better reflect that balance.”

    Mr. Holder is under fire for wide-ranging investigations of the news media in an effort to determine the source of leaks of sensitive government information.

    A government watchdog, the Center for Constitutional Rights, condemned the report of the unprecedented NSA surveillance.

    “As far as we know this order from the FISA court is the broadest surveillance order to ever have been issued: it requires no level of suspicion and applies to all Verizon subscribers anywhere in the U.S.,” the group said. “It also contains a gag order prohibiting Verizon from disclosing information about the order to anyone other than their counsel.”

    The Center, based in New York, said several senators have questioned the Patriot Act’s constitutionality in such cases.

    “The Patriot Act provision requires the FBI to notify Congress about the number of such warrants, but this single order covering millions of people is a deceptive end-run around that disclosure requirement,” the group said.

    (Corrected paragraph) ACLU Legislative Counsel Michelle Richardson called for an immediate end to the program, saying it exposed “the growing gap between the public’s and the government’s understandings” of modern surveillance.

    “Congress should initiate a full investigation,” she added.
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    Default Re: Obama seizing Verizon phone records

    Hahahahahaha

    I have Sprint!

    hhahahahahaha


    (They are next I'm sure, if they haven't been and it's just not yet in the news, lol)
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    Default Re: Obama seizing Verizon phone records

    Here's the issue.

    1) If someone is reasonably believed to be a terrorist, connected to terrorist, or planning a terrorist attack go after them.

    2) if you have to data mine information without any IDEA someone is or even might be a terrorist, connected to terrorist, or planning a terrorist attack then you SHOULD NOT BE LOOKING FOR ANY REASON. It's not the government's business to find "potential targets".
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    Default Re: Obama seizing Verizon phone records

    Verizon scandal: Barack Obama's national security state is now beyond democratic control

    By Tim Stanley US politics Last updated: June 6th, 2013



    The sheer number of scandals exposes Obama's inner authoritarianism


    Those crazy American conspiracy theorists who live up trees with guns and drink their own pee don’t seem quite so crazy anymore. It turns out that a “secret court order” has empowered the US government to collect the phone records of millions of users of Verizon, one of the most popular telephone providers – a massive domestic surveillance programme and a shocking intrusion into the lives of others. For the first time in history, being an AT&T customer doesn’t seem such a bad thing after all.

    Of course, it isn't the first time that a US administration has spied on its own people. The origins of this particular order lie first in the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and then in Section 215 of the Patriot Act, backed by George W Bush and passed by Congress after 9/11. Normally, domestic surveillance only targets suspicious individuals, not the entire population, but in 2006 it was discovered that a similarly wide database of cellular records was being collected from customers of Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth. There was plenty of outrage and plenty of lawsuits, but the National Security Agency never confirmed that the programme had been shut down. It would appear that it’s still in rude health: the latest court order for collecting data runs from April 25 to July 19.

    A few observations. First, America is so conscious and proud of its history as a beacon of liberty that it often overlooks the tyranny that occurs on its own shores in the name of safeguarding democracy. The national security state has expanded to the point whereby it now functions outside of democratic control and with clear disregard for the Constitution. What’s especially creepy about this case is that the state felt no legal obligation to tell citizens that it was spying on them – or at least considering it. The result is a disturbing paradox: it’s legal to collect information from companies but illegal for the companies to try to tell their customers about it. It seems that the law prefers to take the side of the state.

    Second, you get what you vote for – and both Republicans and Democrats keep on voting for authoritarians. There’s a frustrating hypocrisy that many conservatives applauded the accrual of state power under Bush for the sake of fighting the War on Terror only to scream blue murder about it now that it’s happening under Obama. Likewise, many liberals resented the domestic espionage programme of Bush but have been less vocal about opposing it under Obama. The journalist Martin Bashir has gone to far as to claim that the IRS scandal is a coded attack upon the President’s race, that “IRS” is the new “n word”. Sometimes it feels like Obama could be discovered standing over the body of Sarah Palin with a smoking gun in his hand and liberals would scream “racist!” if anyone called him a murderer. Their capacity for self-delusion knows no bounds.

    Finally, totaling every scandal up – IRS, AP phone records, Fox journalists being targeted, the Benghazi mess – this has to be the most furtively authoritarian White House since Nixon’s. We don't yet have a "smoking email" from Obama ordering all of this, but it can’t be said often enough that there is a correlation between Obama’s “progressive” domestic agenda and the misbehavior of the other agencies governed by his administration – forcing people to buy healthcare even when they can’t afford it, bailing out the banks, war in Libya and the use of drone strikes to kill US citizens. This is exactly what the Tea Party was founded to expose and oppose. All the laughter once directed at the “paranoid” Right now rings hollow.
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    Default Re: Obama seizing Verizon phone records

    Good. He's in deep, deep doo doo. Good.

    Holder was just ordered back to stand before the committee to answer for "discrepancies" (lies) in his previous testimony.
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    Default Re: Obama seizing Verizon phone records

    Congrats, Everyone: You Voted For NSA Overreach Under Obama And Bush; Now Can We All Finally End It?

    by Andrew Kirell | 10:58 pm, June 5th, 2013 COLUMN » 132 comments






    The news that the Obama administration’s National Security Agency is collecting the telephone records of millions of US Verizon customers via a top secret court order is astonishing and appalling on many levels. But there is one thing it is not: Surprising.


    In the post-9/11 world, the US government has increasingly found ways to expand its surveillance capabilities through secretive court orders, malleable standards, and blanket laws — seemingly without restraint. This latest NSA news, as broken by the venerable Glenn Greenwald, only serves to confirm what civil libertarians have long suspected: the NSA has repeatedly engaged in massive surveillance of domestic communications of millions of Americans, regardless of whether they are suspected of a crime.


    Libertarians who struggled through the Bush years will recall how the NSA had been secretly collecting the phone records of millions of Americans, with the help of telecommunications giants like AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth. “The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren’t suspected of any crime,” USA Today reported in 2006, several years after Bush initiated the secretive program.


    Given Greenwald’s report, this all sounds eerily familiar. We now have confirmation that Obama has continued, if not expanded, that exact sort of egregious surveillance program. In fact, as Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez told Greenwald, this Obama incident perhaps goes further with an “extraordinary repudiation of any pretence of constraint or particularized suspicion.”


    This latest example of Obama overreach is sure to rankle the feathers of conservatives already rightfully disturbed by the DOJ’s extensive snooping on journalists and the IRS’s intentional targeting of tea party organizations. While many of these same conservatives were rah-rah’ing the expansion of the NSA and United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court during the Bush years, it is a pleasant change to see them finally care about FISA. Welcome aboard.


    Now it’s up to the liberals who lauded Obama as the “anti-Bush” civil liberties champion in 2008 to swallow their pride as well and take a stand against this administration’s overreach, despite what they might see as partisan opportunism coming from the right.


    As the last 13 years have proven, regardless of who is in the White House the security state will continue to expand. And it will take some hypocrisy on both sides to finally end it.
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    Default Re: Obama seizing Verizon phone records

    From CNN....

    NSA's phone snooping a different kind of creepy

    By Douglas Rushkoff, Special to CNN
    June 6, 2013 -- Updated 1834 GMT (0234 HKT)


    Senator: Verizon court order 'is lawful'


    STORY HIGHLIGHTS

    • Douglas Rushkoff: NSA collecting call records from Verizon should not be surprising
    • He says we hand out vast amounts of personal info about ourselves via smartphones
    • He says NSA wants call info for database to help track terrorists, and we are control group
    • Rushkoff: This activity cuts both ways: Digital trail led to revelation leaked to press




    Editor's note:
    Douglas Rushkoff writes a regular column for CNN.com. He is a media theorist and the author of the new book "Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now."



    (CNN) -- I'm finding it hard to get too worked up over the revelation that the National Security Agency has been authorized by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to collect all our call data from Verizon. Hasn't everyone already assumed this? Everything we do in the digital realm -- from surfing the Web to sending an e-mail to conducting a credit card transaction to, yes, making a phone call -- creates a data trail. And if that trail exists, chances are someone is using it -- or will be soon enough.


    This particular style of privacy invasion looks a bit different from those old TV movies where FBI agents sit in a van listening in on phone calls and recording them on reel-to-reel tape recorders. The government isn't interested in the content of our phone calls -- our conversations -- so much as who is calling whom and when, or what has become known as "meta-data." Your life and pursuits are less important than the statistical profile of the way you use your digital devices. This is the world of big data.


    Douglas Rushkoff




    I remember the days when talking about such possibilities was considered conspiracy theory or paranoia. Many of us imagined a future in which people would be planted with chips that monitor our conversations and whereabouts. Perhaps we'd even accept such tagging voluntarily, if it meant being able to track down our children in the unlikely event of a kidnapping.


    What does the Verizon order mean for me?
    But such extraordinary measures proved unnecessary; we're all walking around with tracking devices in our pockets, which are capable not simply of broadcasting our phone calls, but our physical locations, our movements, our interests -- and then tying all this data to our consumer profiles, credit histories ... everything.


    Yes, it's still creepy, but it's a different kind creepy than it appears. Big data analysis works by identifying patterns and anomalies in our behavior. Nobody cares about the reasons why certain people do certain things. They only need to be able to predict the future. Marketers use big data profiling to predict who is about to get pregnant, who is likely to buy a new car, and who is about to change sexual orientations. That's how they know what ads to send to whom. The NSA, meanwhile, wants to know who is likely to commit an act of terrorism -- and for this, they need us.


    The only way for them to identify the kinds of statistical anomalies that point to a terror candidate is to have a giant database of all those behavior patterns that don't suggest imminent violence. What is different about the Tsarnaev brothers' patterns of telephone usage from that of every other young male Chechen immigrants? You need both sets of data to figure that out. We are not the targets so much as the control group.


    Opinion: The great privacy debate



    Everything you do in the digital realm may as well be broadcast on prime-time television and chiseled on the side of the Parthenon.
    Douglas Rushkoff






    Of course, that's small comfort to a people who have long valued and assumed some measure of privacy from government observation. The American assumption of privacy allows those of us who do break certain laws -- say, smoking pot or engaging in prostitution -- from the fear of selective enforcement if we happen to be personal or political enemies of those in charge. As recent Internal Revenue Service scandals prove, our most trusted agencies are not above targeted investigations of ideological foes.


    The harder truth to accept is that we are moving into a digital reality where the assumption of privacy must be exchanged for an assumption of observation. Our telephone meta data is just the tip of the iceberg. Sure, President Barack Obama was quick to respond to the surprise discovery of his administration's covert surveillance operation, promising Americans that the leaked document describes the full extent of this technological intrusion on our privacy. But this court order was already "top secret." Had it not been uncovered, its provisions would have been denied as well.


    My own friends in the digital telephony and networking industries have long told me about "splitters" at all major communications companies, through which every data signal can be observed and diverted. Other technicians have told me about giant server farms in Virginia and Utah, where all of our digital data -- including encrypted e-mails and phone calls -- are being stored. No, they don't have the technological ability or legal authority to search this tremendous repository of data (if it really exists). But they may at some point in the future.
    Crowley on national security



    Besides, the lack of court orders authorizing a particular style of surveillance don't stop any of this surveillance from happening. It simply makes any information collected inadmissible in a court of law. Since the dawn of the Internet, I have always operated under the assumption that if the government or corporations have technological capability to do something, they are doing it -- whatever the laws we happen to know about might say.


    Digital media are biased toward replication and storage. Our digital photos practically upload and post themselves on Facebook, and our most deleted e-mails tend to resurface when we least expect it. Yes, everything you do in the digital realm may as well be broadcast on prime-time television and chiseled on the side of the Parthenon.


    Does this excuse our government's behavior? Of course not. But the silver lining here is that this digital transparency cuts both ways. No sooner does the government win a court order to spy on us than the digital trail of that court order is discovered and leaked to the press. The government's panicky surveillance of Associated Press reporters and disproportionate prosecution of WikiLeaks participants lay bare its own inability to contend with the transparency of digital communications.
    It is disheartening and disillusioning to realize that our government knows every digital thing we say or do. But now, at least we know they know.
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    Default Re: Obama seizing Verizon phone records

    Not just Verizon? Secret NSA effort to gather phone data is years old



    The National Security Agency is reportedly keeping track of the telephone records of millions of American Verizon customers.
    By Richard A. Serrano and Kathleen Hennessey

    June 6, 2013, 8:54 a.m.

    WASHINGTON -- The massive National Security Agency collection of telephone records disclosed Wednesday was part of a continuing program that has been in effect nonstop since 2006, according to the two top leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

    “As far as I know, this is the exact three-month renewal of what has been in place for the past seven years," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told reporters Thursday. The surveillance “is lawful” and Congress has been fully briefed on the practice, she added.

    Her Republican counterpart, Saxby Chambliss, concurred: "This is nothing new. This has been going on for seven years,” he said. “Every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this. To my knowledge there has not been any citizen who has registered a complaint. It has proved meritorious because we have collected significant information on bad guys, but only on bad guys, over the years."

    Obama administration defends collecting Verizon phone data Obama administration defends collecting Verizon phone data
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    The statements by the two senators, whose committee positions give them wide access to classified data, appeared to rule out the possibility that the court order directing Verizon to turn over telephone records was related to the Boston Marathon bombings. The order was effective as of April 19, shortly after the bombings, which had sparked speculation about a link.

    Instead, the surveillance, which was revealed Wednesday by Britain’s Guardian newspaper, appears to have been of far longer duration. Although the senators did not specify the scope of the surveillance, the fact that it has been in place since 2006 also suggests that it is not limited to any one phone carrier.

    The Obama administration defended the program Thursday, saying the data collection “has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States.”

    A senior administration official released a statement which did not confirm the existence of the court order authorizing the surveillance, which, according to the copy released by the Guardian, is marked "Top Secret." It was issued in late April by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret court that meets in Washington, and allowed the government to collect the bulk data until July 19.

    "The information acquired does not include the content of any communications or the name of any subscriber," the official said. "It relates exclusively to metadata, such as a telephone number or the length of a call.

    The court order was authorized under a provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that allows the government to collect business records in bulk if its requests are approved by the court.

    The official said telephone data allow "counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States.”

    The official requested anonymity to discuss the counterterrorism program.

    In defending the data collection program, the administration official sought to spread responsibility, noting that “all three branches” of government were tasked with review and oversight of surveillance.

    "There is a robust legal regime in place governing all activities conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act," the official said. He said that involves oversight by the Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the FISA court.

    Separately, the Justice Department released a letter defending the administration’s handling of the FISA law that they had sent in 2011 to two senators who had objected to it.

    “We do not believe the Executive Branch is operating pursuant to ‘secret law’ or ‘secret opinions of the Department of Justice,’ “ said the letter, signed by Assistant Atty. Gen. Ronald Weich. The “Intelligence Community is conducting court-authorized intelligence activities pursuant to a public statute, with the knowledge and oversight of Congress and the Intelligence Communities of both Houses.”

    “Many other collection activities are classified,” Weich added, saying that “this is necessary because public disclosure of the activities they discuss would harm national security and impede the effectiveness of the intelligence tools that Congress has approved.”

    Weich further defended the program by saying intelligence officials have “determined that public disclosure of the classified use” of the law “would expose sensitive sources and methods to our adversaries and therefore harm national security.”

    He said collection of records, as now underway with Verizon phone logs, was different than material obtained through grand jury subpoenas. Grand jury subpoenas, he said, can be obtained by prosecutors without court approval. In contrast, he said, the intelligence collections can be done only with approval from a federal judge sitting on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

    Most importantly, he noted that FISA courts require a showing by officials that the records sought “are relevant to an authorized national security investigation.”

    The Weich letter was sent to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-0re.).

    Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. is testifying Thursday morning before the Senate Appropriations Committee, and is expected to address the matter further.
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    Default Re: Obama seizing Verizon phone records

    June 6, 2013, 2:48 PM

    Lawmakers’ Mixed Reactions on NSA Surveillance of Phone Records


    By Janet Hook

    While the Obama administration called government review of complete phone records of U.S. customers a “critical tool” in protecting the public from terrorists, reaction was mixed on Capitol Hill to a report showing a secret U.S. intelligence court had approved a three-month collection of phone-call data from Verizon.

    The report was in the British newspaper Guardian.

    Many congressional leaders defended the surveillance program and said it had been place for years, dating back to the George W. Bush administration.
    More In NSA

    Lawmakers' Mixed Reactions on NSA Surveillance of Phone Records
    Eric Holder's Apple Store Encounter

    House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R., Mich.) told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference Thursday that the NSA program helped avert a “significant domestic terrorist attack” in the United States “within the last few years.” He did not provide further information about the threatened attack, but said the committee was trying to classify information about it.

    “We should just calm down and understand this is not something that is brand new,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), who said that the program has been in place for seven years and has “worked to prevent” terrorist attacks.

    Getty Images
    Sen. Dianne Feinstein

    Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) said the program was lawful and that it is renewed every three months. She said this revelation seems to coincide with its latest renewal.

    House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) said he believed that Mr. Obama should reassure Americans with a public explanation and defense of the program.

    “There are public policy and civil liberties concerns among Americans today. I trust the president will explain (to the American people) why the administration considers this a critical tool,” Mr. Boehner said. “I’m fully confident both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have provided oversight on this subject. It is important for the president to outline why these tools are critical.”

    Asked if he knew about this program, Mr. Boehner said, “I don’t discuss classified data….we’re still waiting for the rest of the details.”

    Other members of Congress were more alarmed. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R.,Wis.), an author of the Patriot Act, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder protesting the broad collection of phone records and arguing that it violates the law.

    “As the author of the Patriot Act, I am extremely troubled by the FBI’s interpretation of this legislation,” Mr. Sensenbrenner said in a statement. “While I believe the Patriot Act appropriately balanced national security concerns and civil rights, I have always worried about potential abuses. The Bureau’s broad application for phone records was made under the so-called business records provision of the Act. I do not believe the broadly drafted FISA order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act. Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.”

    Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), who has offered amendments to curb this NSA power, said this report was not a surprise to him but is an “invitation for us to revisit” the the Patriot Act. He said the law has surveillance limits, but “the question is whether it is adequate. This gives us a chance and opportunity to do just that.”

    Sen. Rand Paul ( R., Ky.) said the NSA’s surveillance of Verizon’s phone customers “is an astounding assault on the Constitution.”

    “After revelations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted political dissidents and the Department of Justice seized reporters’ phone records, it would appear that this Administration has now sunk to a new low,” he said.

    Here is more reaction:

    Sen Dean Heller (R., Nev.): “This is yet another example of government overreach that forces the question, ‘What sort of state are we living in?’ There is clearly a glaring difference between what the government is doing and what the American people think they are doing … keeping American citizens safe is one of government’s most important responsibilities, but there is a fine line between protecting our nation and protecting our Fourth Amendment rights. Our government continues to come close to that line and in some areas may have even crossed it.”

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.): “The United States should not be accumulating phone records on tens of millions of innocent Americans … While we must aggressively pursue international terrorists and all of those who would do us harm, we must do it in a way that protects the Constitution and the civil liberties which make us proud to be Americans.”

    Rep. Louise M. Slaughter ( D., N.Y.): ”I am outraged by reports that the NSA is collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. Verizon customers under a secret court order. I have consistently opposed reauthorizations of the USA Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) precisely because they grant overly-broad powers that could infringe on our civil liberties. We do not need to choose between security and civil liberties.”
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    Default Re: Obama seizing Verizon phone records

    “As the author of the Patriot Act, I am extremely troubled by the FBI’s interpretation of this legislation,” Mr. Sensenbrenner said in a statement. “While I believe the Patriot Act appropriately balanced national security concerns and civil rights, I have always worried about potential abuses. The Bureau’s broad application for phone records was made under the so-called business records provision of the Act. I do not believe the broadly drafted FISA order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act. Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.”
    Well? You were worried. You helped create this monster. WTF are you GONNA DO ABOUT IT????????
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    Default Re: Obama seizing Verizon phone records

    This guy should just go flush himself down the nearest toilet or leap off a bridge. Calm down my ass. JUST because something has been being done wrong for seven YEARS doesn't MAKE IT RIGHT.

    NSA's Verizon records collection: "Calm down," Reid says

    Updated at 2:20 p.m. ET



    The National Security Agency's blanket request for Verizon to hand over all records of telephone calls within its system -- both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries -- was a routine request made under congressionally-approved laws, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and some other members of Congress insisted Thursday.


    "Right now I think everyone should just calm down and understand that this isn't anything that is brand new, it's been going on for some seven years, and we have tried to often to try to make it better and work and we will continue to do that," Reid told reporters, referring to the surveillance protocols put in place by the updated Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the Patriot Act.





    Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, concurred with Reid, commenting, "This is nothing particularly new."
    "This has been going on for seven years under the auspices of the FISA authority and every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this," he said.
    Other members of Congress, however -- including one of the authors of the Patriot Act, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis. -- expressed outrage and concern about the data collection.

    Play Video
    Miller: NSA collecting data, not listening in on Americans


    Play Video
    Graham: Verizon giving data to government "doesn't bother me one bit"

    "As the author of the Patriot Act, I am extremely disturbed by what appears to be an overbroad interpretation of the Act," Sensenbrenner said in a letter sent Thursday to Attorney General Eric Holder. Sensenbrenner said the Patriot Act was intended to balance national security and civil rights, but he has "always worried about potential abuses."


    As first reported by the Guardian newspaper in Britain, the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court granted a request from the NSA and the FBI to collect the Verizon data from a three-month period ending on July 19. The order was granted under the so-called "business records" provision of the Patriot Act, though Sensenbrenner pointed out in his letter to Holder that the provision requires the government to prove the relevancy of the information and meet certain thresholds before acquiring business records, especially with respect to records pertaining to U.S. citizens.


    Sensenbrenner said he doesn't believe the FISA order meets those standards. "How could the phone records of so many innocent Americans be relevant to an authorized investigation?" he asked in the letter. He asked Holder to explain why the request was so broad and whether the FBI believes there are any limits to the information they can obtain from the Patriot Act's "business records" provision.


    Other members of Congress, meanwhile, expressed concern over whether the executive branch could be monitoring members of Congress or the Supreme Court. If members of the executive branch were monitoring telephone records from Congress, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., said Thursday, it "would give them unique leverage over the legislature." Kirk expressed this concern directly to Holder, who was testifying about the Justice Department's budget in a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing.


    Holder said he could brief the committee in a closed-door session later, given the sensitive nature of the subject. Kirk retorted, "The correct answer would be to say no, we stayed within our lane, and I'm assuring you we did not spy on members of Congress."


    Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., head of the Appropriations Committee, told Holder that the full Senate -- not just the Intelligence Committee -- should be briefed on the surveillance. "I will send a note to [Democratic and Republican leaders] Reid and McConnell because I think this cuts across committees," she said. "I think it goes to Judiciary. I think it goes to Armed Services. I think it goes to intel."
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    Default Re: Obama seizing Verizon phone records

    The Media, the government officials, everyone are all trying to make this into NOTHING at all.



    Originally published June 6, 2013 at 9:46 AM | Page modified June 6, 2013 at 11:02 AM



    US gov't collecting huge number of phone records

    The government is secretly collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon under a top-secret court order, according to the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The Obama administration is defending the National Security Agency's need to collect such records, but critics are calling it a huge over-reach.

    By DONNA CASSATA and MATT APUZZO


    WASHINGTON —

    The government is secretly collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon under a top-secret court order, according to the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The Obama administration is defending the National Security Agency's need to collect such records, but critics are calling it a huge over-reach.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told reporters Thursday that the court order for telephone records, first disclosed by The Guardian newspaper in Britain, was a three-month renewal of an ongoing practice. The records have been collected for some seven years, according to Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

    "I think people want the homeland kept safe to the extent we can," Feinstein said at a Capitol Hill news conference. "We want to protect these privacy rights. That's why this is carefully done in federal court with federal judges who sit 24/7 who review these requests."

    And the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, said the NSA search of telephone records had thwarted an attempted terrorist attack in the United States in the past few years. He said it was a "significant case" but declined to provide further details.

    White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that he couldn't provide classified details but that the court order in question is a critical tool for learning when terrorists or suspected terrorists might be engaging in dangerous activities. He said there are strict legal rules on how such a program is conducted and that congressional leaders are briefed.

    Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent whose comments were echoed by several members of both parties, said: "To simply say in a blanket way that millions and millions of Americans are going to have their phone records checked by the U.S. government is to my mind indefensible and unacceptable."

    The disclosure raised a number of questions: What is the government looking for? Are other big telephone companies under similar orders to turn over information? How is the information used and how long are the records kept?

    The sweeping roundup of U.S. phone records has been going on for years and was a key part of the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program, according to a U.S. official.

    Attorney General Eric Holder sidestepped questions about the issue during an appearance before a Senate subcommittee, offering instead to discuss it at a classified session that several senators said they would arrange.

    The order was granted by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on April 25 and is good until July 19, the Guardian reported. It requires Verizon, one of the nation's largest telecommunications companies, on an "ongoing, daily basis," to give the NSA information on all landline and mobile telephone calls of Verizon Business in its systems, both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries.

    The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration, the communication records of millions of U.S. citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk, regardless of whether the people are suspected of any wrongdoing.

    A former U.S. intelligence official who is familiar with the NSA program said that records from all U.S. phone companies would be seized by the government under the warrants, and that they would include business and residential numbers.

    Reaction to the revelation - both pro and con - reflected the vigorous debate in Washington over how best to balance the sometimes-competing goals of protecting the nation from terror attacks while safeguarding the privacy and civil rights of Americans. President Barack Obama, in a recent national security address, said the nation is at a crossroads as it determines how to remain vigilant yet move beyond a post-9/11 mindset focused on global antiterrorism.

    Former Vice President Al Gore tweeted that privacy was essential in the digital era.

    "Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?" wrote Gore, the Democrat who lost the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush.

    But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he had no problem with the court order and the practice, declaring, "If we don't do it, we're crazy."

    "If you're not getting a call from a terrorist organization, you've got nothing to worry about," he said.

    Arizona Sen. John McCain, who ran against Obama for president in 2008, said that if the records sweep was designed to track "people in the United States who are communicating with members of jihadist terrorist organizations," that might not be a problem. "But if it was something where we just blanket started finding out who everybody called and under what circumstances, then I think it deserves congressional hearings."

    Senate Democratic leader Reid played down the significance of the revelation.

    "Right now I think that everyone should just calm down and understand that this isn't anything that's brand new," he said. "This is a program that's been in effect for seven years, as I recall. It's a program that has worked to prevent not all terrorism but certainly the vast, vast majority. Now is the program perfect? Of course not."

    The disclosure of the records sweep was just the latest controversy to hit the Obama administration.

    The president also is facing questions over the Internal Revenue Service's improper targeting of conservative groups, the seizure of journalist phone records in an investigation into who leaked information to the media, and the administration's handling of the terrorist attack in Libya that left four Americans dead.

    At the very least, the controversies threaten to distract the White House at a pivotal time, when the president wants to tackle big issues like immigration reform and taxes. At most, the controversies collectively could erode the American people's trust in him, threatening both to derail his second term agenda and sully his presidential legacy.

    The court order did not authorize snooping into the content of phone calls. But with millions of phone records in hand, the NSA's computers can analyze them for patterns, spot unusual behavior and identify what are known in intelligence circles as "communities of interest" - networks of people in contact with targets or suspicious phone numbers overseas.

    Once the government has zeroed in on numbers it believes are tied to terrorism or foreign governments, it can go back to the court with a wiretap request. That allows the government to monitor the calls in real time, record them and store them indefinitely.

    The court document related to Verizon offers a glimpse into the larger NSA effort. Under the law, the government would need to demand records from each phone company individually. While subpoenas for other phone companies have not been made public, for the data-mining program described by government officials to work, the government would need records for all providers.

    "There is no indication that this order to Verizon was unique or novel. It is very likely that business records orders like this exist for every major American telecommunication company, meaning that if you make calls in the United States the NSA has those records. And this has been going on for at least 7 years, and probably longer," wrote Cindy Cohn, general counsel of the nonprofit digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, and staff attorney Mark Rumold, in a blog post.

    Jim Harper, a communications and privacy expert at the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, questioned the effectiveness of using so-called pattern analyses to intercept terrorism. He said that kind of analysis - finding trends in transactional data collected by Verizon - would produce many false positives and give the government access to intricate data about people's calling habits.

    "This is not just entertainment or a sideshow. This is a record of who you called every day this month," he said, urging Congress to require the government to provide "a full explanation" of how this data turns up terrorism plots.

    Under Bush, the National Security Agency built a highly classified wiretapping program to monitor emails and phone calls worldwide. The full details of that program remain unknown, but one aspect was to monitor massive numbers of incoming and outgoing U.S. calls to look for suspicious patterns, said an official familiar with the program. That official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it publicly.

    After The New York Times revealed the existence of that wiretapping program, the roundup continued under authority granted in the USA Patriot Act, the official said.

    The official did not know if the program was continuous or whether it stopped and restarted at times.

    The official had not seen the court order released by the Guardian newspaper but said it was consistent with similar authorizations the Justice Department has received.

    Verizon spokesman Ed McFadden said Wednesday the company had no comment.

    The NSA had no immediate comment. The agency is sensitive to perceptions that it might be spying on Americans. In a brochure it distributes, which includes a DVD for reporters to view video that it provides for public relations purposes, it pledges that the agency "is unwavering in its respect for U.S. laws and Americans' civil liberties - and its commitment to accountability," and says, "Earning the American public's trust is paramount."

    Verizon Communications Inc. listed 121 million customers in its first-quarter earnings report this April - 98.9 million wireless customers, 11.7 million residential phone lines and about 10 million commercial lines. The court order didn't specify which customers' records were being tracked.

    Under the terms of the order, the phone numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as are call time and duration, and unique identifiers. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered, The Guardian said.

    A senior administration official, defending the collection of phone records by the government, said, "On its face, the order reprinted in the article does not allow the government to listen in on anyone's telephone calls." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

    Interviewed separately, the former intelligence official described a system in which the database needed to be kept current so that if intelligence agencies obtained a phone number from a terror suspect overseas, it could immediately be matched against the records on file. Because it is not easy or quick to obtain the records from phone companies, the Obama administration needed to renew the Bush-era program on an ongoing basis to keep it updated, the former official said.

    It's not clear how long the records are kept, or if they are destroyed. The former official said that since terror suspects frequently change phone numbers to cover their tracks, there is little need for older records.

    Congressional intelligence agencies were briefed extensively on the program, and received support from both Republicans and Democrats to continue it, the former official said. "Some were nervous about it, but there was never any attempt to stop the program," he said. He described it as a White House-led process.

    The broad, unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is unusual. FISA court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets. NSA warrantless wiretapping during the George W. Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks was very controversial.

    The FISA court order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compelled Verizon to provide the NSA with electronic copies of "all call detail records or telephony metadata created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad" or "wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls," The Guardian said.

    The law on which the order explicitly relies is the "business records" provision of the USA Patriot Act.

    ---

    Associated Press writers Adam Goldman, Julie Pace, Lara Jakes, David Espo and Jack Gillum contributed to this report.
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    Default Re: Obama seizing Verizon phone records

    Sounds like the Government decided because records are deleted every couple of years, they pulled all this data to "archive" it.....
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    Default Re: Obama seizing Verizon phone records

    America's surveillance state: anger swells after data revelations

    Senior politicians reveal that US counter-terrorism efforts have swept up personal data from American citizens for years

    • Revealed: NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily

    Dan Roberts and Spencer Ackerman in Washington
    guardian.co.uk, Thursday 6 June 2013 16.01 EDT


    Barack Obama crowdfunding charities (picture, deleted)

    A White House spokesman said that laws governing such orders 'are something that have been in place for a number of years now'. Photograph: Rex Features

    The scale of America's surveillance state was laid bare on Wednesday as senior politicians revealed that the US counter-terrorism effort had swept up swaths of personal data from the phone calls of millions of citizens for years.

    After the revelation by the Guardian of a sweeping secret court order that authorised the FBI to seize all call records from a subsidiary of Verizon, the Obama administration sought to defuse mounting anger over what critics described as the broadest surveillance ruling ever issued.

    A White House spokesman said that laws governing such orders "are something that have been in place for a number of years now" and were vital for protecting national security. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, said the Verizon court order had been in place for seven years. "People want the homeland kept safe," Feinstein said.

    But as the implications of the blanket approval for obtaining phone data reverberated around Washington and beyond, anger grew among other politicians.

    Intelligence committee member Mark Udall, who has previously warned in broad terms about the scale of government snooping, said: "This sort of widescale surveillance should concern all of us and is the kind of government overreach I've said Americans would find shocking." Former vice-president Al Gore described the "secret blanket surveillance" as "obscenely outrageous".

    The Verizon order was made under the provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) as amended by the Patriot Act of 2001, passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But one of the authors of the Patriot Act, Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, said he was troubled by the Guardian revelations. He said that he had written to the attorney general, Eric Holder, questioning whether "US constitutional rights were secure".

    He said: "I do not believe the broadly drafted Fisa order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act. Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American."

    The White House sought to defend what it called "a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats". White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Fisa orders were used to "support important and highly sensitive intelligence collection operations" on which members of Congress were fully briefed.

    "The intelligence community is conducting court-authorized intelligence activities pursuant to a public statute with the knowledge and oversight of Congress and the intelligence community in both houses of Congress," Earnest said.

    He pointed out that the order only relates to the so-called metadata surrounding phone calls rather than the content of the calls themselves. "The order reprinted overnight does not allow the government to listen in on anyone's telephone calls," Earnest said.

    "The information acquired does not include the content of any communications or the name of any subscriber. It relates exclusively to call details, such as a telephone number or the length of a telephone call."

    But such metadata can provide authorities with vast knowledge about a caller's identity. Particularly when cross-checked against other public records, the metadata can reveal someone's name, address, driver's licence, credit history, social security number and more. Government analysts would be able to work out whether the relationship between two people was ongoing, occasional or a one-off.

    The disclosure has reignited longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government's domestic spying powers.

    Ron Wyden of Ohio, a member of the Senate intelligence committee who, along with Udell, has expressed concern about the extent of US government surveillance, warned of "sweeping, dragnet surveillance". He said: "I am barred by Senate rules from commenting on some of the details at this time, However, I believe that when law-abiding Americans call their friends, who they call, when they call, and where they call from is private information.

    "Collecting this data about every single phone call that every American makes every day would be a massive invasion of Americans' privacy."
    'Beyond Orwellian'

    Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, said: "From a civil liberties perspective, the program could hardly be any more alarming. It's a program in which some untold number of innocent people have been put under the constant surveillance of government agents.

    "It is beyond Orwellian, and it provides further evidence of the extent to which basic democratic rights are being surrendered in secret to the demands of unaccountable intelligence agencies."

    Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice under President Obama.

    The order names Verizon Business Services, a division of Verizon Communications. In its first-quarter earnings report, published in April, Verizon Communications listed about 10 million commercial lines out of a total of 121 million customers. The court order, which lasts for three months from 25 April, does not specify what type of lines are being tracked. It is not clear whether any additional orders exist to cover Verizon's wireless and residential customers, or those of other phone carriers.

    Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific, named target suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets. The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual.
    Senators Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, and Saxby Chambliss, the vice chairman, speak to reporters about the NSA cull of phone records. Senators Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, and Saxby Chambliss, the vice chairman, speak to reporters about the NSA cull of phone records. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

    Feinstein said she believed the order had been in place for some time. She said: "As far as I know this is the exact three-month renewal of what has been the case for the past seven years. This renewal is carried out by the [foreign intelligence surveillance] court under the business records section of the Patriot Act. Therefore it is lawful. It has been briefed to Congress."

    The Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement that the secret court order was unprecedented. "As far as we know this order from the Fisa court is the broadest surveillance order to ever have been issued: it requires no level of suspicion and applies to all Verizon [business services] subscribers anywhere in the US.

    "The Patriot Act's incredibly broad surveillance provision purportedly authorizes an order of this sort, though its constitutionality is in question and several senators have complained about it."

    Russell Tice, a retired National Security Agency intelligence analyst and whistleblower, said: "What is going on is much larger and more systemic than anything anyone has ever suspected or imagined."

    Although an anonymous senior Obama administration official said that "on its face" the court order revealed by the Guardian did not authorise the government to listen in on people's phone calls, Tice now believes the NSA has constructed such a capability.

    "I figured it would probably be about 2015" before the NSA had "the computer capacity … to collect all digital communications word for word," Tice said. "But I think I'm wrong. I think they have it right now."
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    Default Re: Obama seizing Verizon phone records

    Heard this on my way home today. I'd like to say I'm shocked, but I am not. We did know about the thing years ago and we also knew they made broader provisions. As to the idea they need our data as a control group, that actually has merit in an analysis to find the 'normal' in order to see the abnormal traffic, but it is wholly against our rights and any law allowing it is as well.

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    Super Moderator and PHILanthropist Extraordinaire Phil Fiord's Avatar
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    Default Re: Obama seizing Verizon phone records

    Regarding Sprint and others.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygree...he-government/

    Here's How Often AT&T, Sprint, And Verizon Each Hand Over Users' Data To The Government


    4 comments, 4 called-out
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    When it comes to modern law enforcement surveillance, no one watches the wiretappers.
    The vast majority of law enforcement’s demands that phone carriers and Internet services hand over users’ private data don’t require a warrant, and occur with little or no accountability. It’s not just that we don’t know how much surveillance takes place. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, we don’t even know what we don’t know about how much the government knows about us.
    But we’re finally starting to learn more. On Monday, Congressman Ed Markey released a collection of letters he received from major phone carriers in response to a query he sent them earlier this year, demanding that they reveal how often they give users’ data to the government and under what circumstances. The responses were patchy, evasive, and in many places leave out key information. But I’ve assembled a few bullet points from them that capture the massive surveillance affecting phone users.

    • Sprint received 500,000 subpoenas for its data from law enforcement in the last year. That doesn’t include court orders for wiretaps and location data, which Sprint didn’t track annually but which added up to 325,982 requests in the last five years. The company also says it doesn’t have the resources to track how many of those requests it responded to or rejected. The company has 221 employees dedicated to processing and responding to government requests for its data.
    • Verizon received 260,000 requests for its users data in 2011, including wiretaps, calling records, text message information, and location information, but doesn’t add how many were fulfilled.
    • AT&T received 131,400 subpoenas in criminal cases for its information in 2011, as well as 49,700 warrants or orders that it hand over data. It rejected 965 of them. The company says it employees more than 100 staffers full-time to respond to law enforcement demands.
    • T-Mobile told Congressman Markey it “does not disclose” the number of law enforcement requests it receives or complies with.
    • MetroPCS says it received fewer than 12,000 requests a month on average for the last six years.
    • Cricket received 42,000 requests last year, and U.S. Cellular received 19,734 requests in 2011.
    • The New York Times counts a total of 1.3 million requests for users’ information in the last year based on Markey’s data.
    • The number of data requests seems to be growing quickly across the board. The major carriers who measured the growth in requests over time agreed that law enforcement demands have risen 12-16% year-over-year.

    Markey’s request for this information followed a groundbreaking report by the American Civil Liberties Union based on Freedom of Information Act requests to police departments around the country for evidence of their policies on data requests to phone carriers. The results showed a disturbing rise in the use of phones as a central tool for law enforcement, including tracking location and even using “tower dumps”–collections of all the stored information collected from all users of a cell phone tower–without a warrant.
    It’s important to remember that the information revealed Monday includes “tower dumps,” too, says Chris Calebrese, an attorney with the ACLU. “Just the sheer volume of orders is amazing, but a significant chunk are dumps from entire cell towers,” he says. “That means tons of people’s information is being grabbed with a single one of these orders.”
    The numbers also bring home the fact that the official wiretap report released earlier this month is now all but useless. That report showed a 14% drop in wiretaps. But with less than 3,000 of those real-time communication requests reported, they represent less than a third of a percent of actual surveillance requests.
    Markey’s surveillance report puts in perspective the privacy issues for Internet services compared with phone companies. Google, which releases a bi-annual report on law enforcement requests, received only 12,271 requests for its information in 2011, compared with the hundreds of thousands received by phone companies.
    The ACLU’s Calabrese says Markey’s data points to the need for both more transparency and laws to better regulate on companies hand over users’ data. He points to the GPS Act making its way through Congress, which would require a warrant to track a user’s location with a cell phone. “It’s amazing that Congress has never regulated what standard law enforcement should use before tracking someone’s location. The appropriate standard is a probable cause search warrant,” he says. ” Clearly the cell phone has become the central tool for law enforcement investigations, even as the laws governing what information about them can access accessed and with what standard have become entirely out of date.”
    The full responses to Markey’s letter are posted here.

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    Default Re: Obama seizing Verizon phone records

    U.S. Collects Vast Data Trove

    NSA Monitoring Includes Three Major Phone Companies, as Well as Online Activity


    By SIOBHAN GORMAN, EVAN PEREZ and JANET HOOK

    WASHINGTON—The National Security Agency's monitoring of Americans includes customer records from the three major phone networks as well as emails and Web searches, and the agency also has cataloged credit-card transactions, said people familiar with the agency's activities.

    The Obama administration says its review of complete phone records of U.S. citizens is a "necessary tool" in protecting the nation from terror threats. Is this the accepted new normal, or has the Obama administration pushed the bounds of civil liberties? Cato Institute Director of Information Policy Studies Jim Harper weighs in.

    The disclosure this week of an order by a secret U.S. court for Verizon Communications Inc.'s VZ +3.46% phone records set off the latest public discussion of the program. But people familiar with the NSA's operations said the initiative also encompasses phone-call data from AT&T Inc. T +1.56% and Sprint Nextel Corp., S +1.94% records from Internet-service providers and purchase information from credit-card providers.

    The agency is using its secret access to the communications of millions of Americans to target possible terrorists, said people familiar with the effort.

    The NSA's efforts have become institutionalized—yet not so well known to the public—under laws passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Most members of Congress defended them Thursday as a way to root out terrorism, but civil-liberties groups decried the program.


    The National Security Agency is obtaining phone records from all Verizon U.S. customers under a secret court order, according to a newspaper report and ex-officials. WSJ intelligence correspondent Siobhan Gorman joins MoneyBeat. Photo: AP.

    "Everyone should just calm down and understand this isn't anything that is brand new,'' said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), who added that the phone-data program has "worked to prevent'' terrorist attacks.

    Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) said the program is lawful and that it must be renewed by Congress every three months. She said the revelation about Verizon, reported by the London-based newspaper the Guardian, seemed to coincide with its latest renewal.

    Civil-liberties advocates slammed the NSA's actions. "The most recent surveillance program is breathtaking. It shows absolutely no effort to narrow or tailor the surveillance of citizens," said Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law expert at George Washington University.

    Meanwhile, the Washington Post and the Guardian on Thursday reported the existence of a previously undisclosed program, called Prism, which was described as providing the NSA and FBI direct access to server systems operated by tech companies that include Google Inc., GOOG +0.57% Apple Inc., AAPL -1.49% Facebook Inc., FB +0.31% Yahoo Inc., YHOO +1.79% Microsoft Corp. MSFT +0.52% and Skype. The newspapers, citing what they said was an internal NSA document, said the agencies received the contents of emails, file transfers and live chats of the companies' customers as part of their surveillance activities of foreigners whose activity online is routed through the U.S. The Verizon program, by contrast, more directly involves data associated with Americans. The companies mentioned denied knowledge or participation in the program.

    The arrangement with Verizon, AT&T and Sprint, the country's three largest phone companies means, that every time the majority of Americans makes a call, NSA gets a record of the location, the number called, the time of the call and the length of the conversation, according to people familiar with the matter. The practice, which evolved out of warrantless wiretapping programs begun after 2001, is approved by all three branches of the U.S. government.

    AT&T has 107.3 million wireless customers and 31.2 million landline customers. Verizon has 98.9 million wireless customers and 22.2 million landline customers while Sprint has 55 million customers in total.

    NSA also obtains access to data from Internet service providers on Internet use such as email or website visits, several former officials said. NSA has established similar relationships with credit-card companies, three former officials said.

    It couldn't be determined if any of the Internet or credit-card arrangements are ongoing, as are the phone company efforts, or one-shot collection efforts. The credit-card firms, phone companies and NSA declined to comment for this article.

    Though extensive, the data collection effort doesn't entail monitoring the content of emails or what is said in phone calls, said people familiar with the matter. Investigators gain access to so-called metadata, telling them who is communicating, through what medium, when, and where they are located.

    But the disconnect between the program's supporters and detractors underscored the difficulty Congress has had navigating new technology, national security and privacy.

    The Obama administration, which inherited and embraced the program from the George W. Bush administration, moved Thursday to forcefully defend it. White House spokesman Josh Earnest called it "a critical tool in protecting the nation from terror threats."

    But Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), said he has warned about the breadth of the program for years, but only obliquely because of classification restrictions.
    "When law-abiding Americans call their friends, who they call, when they call, and where they call from is private information," he said. "Collecting this data about every single phone call that every American makes every day would be a massive invasion of Americans' privacy."

    In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, phone records were collected without a court order as a component of the Bush-era warrantless surveillance program authorized by the 2001 USA Patriot Act, which permitted the collection of business records, former officials said.



    The ad hoc nature of the NSA program changed after the Bush administration came under criticism for its handling of a separate, warrantless NSA eavesdropping program.

    President Bush acknowledged its existence in late 2005, calling it the Terrorist Surveillance Program, or TSP.

    When Democrats retook control of Congress in 2006, promising to investigate the administration's counterterrorism policies, Bush administration officials moved to formalize court oversight of the NSA programs, according to former U.S. officials.

    Congress in 2006 also made changes to the Patriot Act that made it easier for the government to collect phone-subscriber data under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

    Those changes helped the NSA collection program become institutionalized, rather than one conducted only under the authority of the president, said people familiar with the program.

    Along with the TSP, the NSA collection of phone company customer data was put under the jurisdiction of a secret court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, according to officials.

    David Kris, a former top national security lawyer at the Justice Department, told a congressional hearing in 2009 that the government first used the so-called business records authority in 2004.

    At the time he was urging the reauthorization of the business-records provisions, known as Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which Congress later approved.

    The phone records allow investigators to establish a database used to run queries when there is "reasonable, articulable suspicion" that the records are relevant and related to terrorist activity, Ms. Feinstein said Thursday.

    The database allows investigators to "map" individuals connected with that information, said Jeremy Bash, who until recently was chief of staff at the Pentagon and is a former top aide to the House Intelligence committee.

    "We are trying to find a needle in a haystack, and this is the haystack," Mr. Bash said, referring to the database.

    Sen. Wyden on Thursday questioned whether U.S. officials have been truthful in public descriptions of the program. In March, Mr. Wyden noted, he questioned Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who said the NSA did not "wittingly" collect any type of data pertaining to millions Americans. Spokesmen for Mr. Clapper didn't respond to requests for comment.

    For civil libertarians, this week's disclosure of the court authorization for part of the NSA program could offer new avenues for challenges. Federal courts largely have rebuffed efforts that target NSA surveillance programs, in part because no one could prove the information was being collected. The government, under both the Bush and Obama administrations, has successfully used its state-secrets privilege to block such lawsuits.

    Jameel Jaffer, the American Civil Liberties Union's deputy legal director, said the fact the FISA court record has now become public could give phone-company customers standing to bring a lawsuit.

    "Now we have a set of people who can show they have been monitored," he said.


    —Danny Yadron and Jennifer Valentino-DeVries contributed to this article.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...289298922.html

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    Default Re: Obama seizing Verizon phone records

    Why is anyone surprised by this stuff. It seems to pop up with each administration over and over the awareness of what they are doing slips out as people start to get their mind wrapped around the publicly available technology. What do people think they are doing with places like the Utah center and thats the public one, not to mention all that is going on in plane site.

    What do you expect to happen when the military, the fed, the judicial and the politicians that are on the inside have their very own personal interpretation of the patriot act, that appears to be classified..........oh go figure. These people hide behind classification and hide everything from us and claim it is in our best interest since we can't handle what is going on. This is exactly how one day thanks to decades not years but decades of this practice administration after administration one day we will all go holy hell this is a prison.

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    Postman vector7's Avatar
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    Default Re: Obama seizing Verizon phone records

    Bush was all about the WOT.

    He didn't fund the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda to overthrow western dictators in the ME.

    Bush wouldn't say stuff like this either after another terror attack on the anniversary of 9/11...



    On our consulate in Libya killing our ambassador and dragging 3 other Americans through the streets of Benghazi.
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