The New York Times is reporting that the NSA got a secret court order to get all of Verizon’s call records for a three-month period.
The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in April, directs a Verizon Communications subsidiary, Verizon Business Network Services, to turn over “on an ongoing daily basis” to the National Security Agency all call logs “between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”
The order does not apply to the content of the communications.
Verizon Business Network Services is one of the nation’s largest telecommunications and Internet providers for corporations. It is not clear whether similar orders have gone to other parts of Verizon, like its residential or cellphone services, or to other telecommunications carriers. The order prohibits its recipient from discussing its existence, and representatives of both Verizon and AT&T declined to comment Wednesday evening.
The four-page order was disclosed Wednesday evening by the newspaper The Guardian. Obama administration officials at the F.B.I. and the White House also declined to comment on it Wednesday evening, but did not deny the report, and a person familiar with the order confirmed its authenticity. “We will respond as soon as we can,” said Marci Green Miller, a National Security Agency spokeswoman, in an e-mail.
As the article points out, these are not wiretaps, and the scope of the order is so massive that it’s hard to imagine that they are looking for anything more than patterns. But it makes you wonder what they think they’re going to find when sifting through the virtual mountain of information.
This is being done under the authority of the PATRIOT Act, so from a political point of view, it’s going to be interesting to see who raises a stink about this from the GOP or Fox News. After all, they were all in favor of this kind of thing when it was first whooped through Congress. But it doesn’t matter if it’s a Democratic or a Republican administration: this huge scooping up of information had better have a really good reason behind it.
PS: Al Gore tweeted that the order was “obscenely outrageous,” thereby assuring its approval by the Orcosphere.