Here’s a bit of surprising news that sounds as though it came straight out of a Bourne movie.
Verizon, one of the largest telecommunications companies in the U.S., has been handing over the telephone records of millions of its subscribers to the National Security Agency, reports The Guardian.
The company has been required to do so under a top secret order issued in April, a copy of which has been obtained by the British publication.
The order requires Verizon to furnish the NSA on an “ongoing, daily basis” with information pertaining to all phone calls made on its network, both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries.
Note that, according to the court document, the contents of the phone calls themselves are not collected by the NSA. Rather, only (and I use this quantifier loosely in this particular context) the phone numbers, location data, call duration, and unique identifiers associated with the calls are gathered.
The Guardian additionally notes:
The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.
The Guardian also points out that it had contacted the NSA, the White House, and the U.S. Department of Justice for comment, but all declined.
Verizon was also sought for comment, but it, too, declined. The company is said to be barred from disclosing the existence of the government request for its customers’ records or of the court order itself.
It’s unclear whether Verizon is the only telecommunications company to be issued with such an order. But the Guardian notes that previous reporting has pointed to the NSA’s collection of phone records from all major mobile networks in the U.S.
The order, which was granted by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, gives the U.S. government unlimited authority to collect data from Verizon for a three-month period ending July 19.
It’s safe to assume that many Verizon subscribers are none too pleased about this revelation. But at least one of them appears to be taking it with a bit of humor. Seamus McKiernan, associate blog editor at the Huffington Post, posted the following couple of tweets after hearing the news:
Now we know all those dropped Verizon calls were just the feds hanging up