A leaked court order has revealed the Obama administration is conducting a massive domestic surveillance program by collecting telephone records of millions of Verizon customers. The Guardian newspaper published a classified order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court directing Verizon’s Business Network Services to give the National Security Agency electronic data, including all calling records on an “ongoing, daily basis.” The order covers each phone number dialed by all customers, along with location and routing data, and with the duration and frequency of the calls, but not the contents of the communications.
We discuss the news with three guests: Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, and two former National Security Agency employees turned whistleblowers: Thomas Drake and William Binney. In 2010, the Obama administration charged Drake with violating the Espionage Act after he was accused of leaking classified information to the press about waste and mismanagement at the agency. The charges were later dropped. “Where has the mainstream media been? These are routine orders, nothing new,” Drake says. “What’s new is we’re seeing an actual order. And people are somehow surprised by it. The fact remains that this program has been in place for quite some time. It was actually started shortly after 9/11. The PATRIOT Act was the enabling mechanism that allowed the United States government in secret to acquire subscriber records from any company.”
Binney, who worked at nearly 40 years at the NSA and resigned shortly after the 9/11 attacks, says: “NSAhas been doing all this stuff all along, and it’s been all the companies, not just one. And I basically looked at that and said: If Verizon got one, so did everybody else. Which means that they’re just continuing the collection of this kind of information of all U.S. citizens.”
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