created a bit of a firestorm late yesterday by unearthing a secret order by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA)
demanding that Verizon hand over records pertaining to phone calls made on their network on a daily basis
. According to the report, the order again highlights how the government is spying on United States citizens en masse -- regardless of whether or not an actual crime has been committed.
This particular leaked FISA order was issued April 25, providing the government unlimited authority to collect national and international call data from Verizon for a three month period ending on July 19. The order allows the government to obtain call location data, unique identifiers, the call duration and time of all calls, and the identities of both callers. FISA orders were previously thought to have been more specific, targeting one or several individuals at a time.
Actual call conversation contents are not covered by FISA, but that shouldn't matter in broader context. Time and time again we've seen both carrier and NSA whistle blowers come forward with evidence of carriers like AT&T, Sprint and Verizon allowing real-time wiretaps that just dump all live traffic in the government's lap
in violation of law (which they simply change when they get caught).
The reality is the spying has been occurring for years, and the laws now governing it (like FISA courts) were erected to "legitimize" this spying after the fact. As we've long covered, other laws were also passed after whistleblowers exposed the programs to protect carrier coffers from liability for breaking the law. As such, it's rather silly to get caught up in what's "legal" about all of this, since the government ignores the law or simply changes it entirely whenever it's deemed necessary.
Meanwhile, logistically the problem hasn't been getting carriers to hand over the data, adhering to law or getting access to lines, the problem for the NSA has been analyzing this maelstrom of data and picking out pertinent information. That's why the agency is building several giant warehouses packed with supercomputers to store and dissect their information treasure trove, just one of them being a $2 billion operation in Bluffdale, Utah
All of this is spying on you, is also being paid for by -- you. Whether it's higher cell costs to adhere to wiretap requests, or the taxpayer funds needed to build giant Utah supercomputer warehouses, the best part of all of this erosion of your rights is that you get to pay for it.
Carriers are forbidden by the FISA court to discuss the orders. The Obama Administration, whose domestic surveillance efforts dwarf even the Bush administration's unprecedented pioneering on this front, isn't commenting specifically, though they did tell the AP
that collecting such records is "a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats."