NSA collecting millions of Verizon Business phone records: Report

The National Security Agency has reportedly been collecting phone records of not the few, but the many. The Guardian newspaper, based in Britain, says it obtained a top secret court order that mandated Verizon to turn over phone logs and other call data of millions of business customers, beginning about six weeks ago and extending until July 19. Verizon Business Network Services is one of the nation’s largest telephone and Internet providers for corporations and small businesses.

The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story, joined Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to share the details of his report.

On the details of the court order: 

Greenwald: "The Obama administration, the FBI and the NSA specifically, went into the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court -- the FISA court, which is a court that operates in total secrecy -- and asked that court to mandate that Verizon Business turn over all phone records to the National Security Agency."

On which phone records were requested:

Greenwald: "They are asking for every single phone record that Verizon Business has for every single one of its customers... All phone records, including phone records that show exclusively local calls, calls among and between Americans inside the United States, as well as a whole variety of other identifying information such as the duration of the call, the location of the users, the type of telephone they are using."

On the legality:

Greenwald: "The cited law to justify this, which is a provision of the Patriot Act, was a law that was enacted in the wake of 9/11. The government told people who were worried about this law that it would only be used to target individuals who were suspected of being members of terrorist organizations. Here you have the law being used exactly in the opposite way."

On Verizon's response:

Greenwald: "The court order specifically says to Verizon, you are barred from disclosing the existence the FBI's request or the court order. So if Verizon had wanted to stand up in public and say the FBI is persecuting us by demanding all of our phone records, if they wanted to tell their customers, they are barred by court order. As one would expect, when we called Verizon to get comment, they dutifully said they were not able to comment."

On what comes next:

Greenwald: "The question at this point is whether this is simply a one-time only event, which would seem very unlikely. Why would they only want it for this three month period and only for Verizon business? Have other companies been targeted with similar orders? Have they been doing this for a lot longer period of time? A senior official told the Washington Post this morning that this is simply a type of order that has been routinely renewed over the last several years to enable the government to build a comprehensive database of people's telephone calls."

 

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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