Quoted: on the NSA spying on Americans and their call records

“It’s not the society we set forth in the Constitution, and it’s not the society we should have.”

— Kurt Opsahl, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, on the disclosure that the National Security Agency is collecting mobile and landline phone records on millions of Americans.

The Guardian first reported Wednesday that the U.S. government has been collecting call logs, location data and duration of phone calls — but not the content of the calls, for which warrants would be required — of Verizon Business Network Services customers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which was amended in 2008 to legalize a warrantless wiretapping program started under the Bush administration.

It is not news that the practice of spying on the communications between Americans and suspected foreign terrorists has continued under the Obama administration. As we mentioned earlier this year, the Senate voted late last year to extend the FISA Amendments Act for five years. But the collection of Verizon phone records, acknowledged and defended this morning by the White House as necessary to fight terrorism, is being done “indiscriminately and in bulk — regardless of whether [people] are suspected of any wrongdoing,” according to the Guardian, which says the collection of Verizon call logs was ordered by a court in April.

Such collection appears to justify fears raised by groups such as the ACLU, Amnesty International, journalists and lawyers, who had filed suit against the government, claiming a violation of free-speech and privacy rights under FISA. In February, the Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiffs had no right to sue because they could not prove they were being harmed.

Collection of the Verizon “metadata” is set to expire July 19, according to the April court order.

The Guardian also notes that the collection of call data under President Bush in 2006 included that from other companies such as AT&T. It is so far unknown whether the Obama administration also collects such information from companies other than Verizon; groups such as the EFF says it is likely to be the case.

 

Photo by Associated Press

 

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