NSA spying on Verizon calls is nothing new


So, the federal government is spying on millions of Americans. Still. And this time, there’s a document to prove it.

In a momentous scoop by journalist Glenn Greenwald, the UK Guardian has published a top secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order requiring Verizon to turn over all call records to the National Security Agency.

It does not matter if you are suspected of wrongdoing, or what your political beliefs are. It’s now been confirmed that if you are a Verizon subscriber, your “telephony metadata” is being handed over the NSA, “on an ongoing daily basis,” along with the records of millions of other subscribers.

What can this metadata reveal about a telecom subscriber?

“Every call made, the location of the phone, the time of the call, the duration of the call, and other ‘identifying information’ for the phone and call,” according to this cogent explanation provided by Electronic Frontier Foundation attorneys Cindy Cohn and Mark Rumold (in full disclosure, my former coworkers). Take a moment to let that sink in. We’re not just talking about every number dialed, but the geographic location of every phone.

Further raising eyebrows: “There is no indication that this order to Verizon was unique or novel,” Cohn and Rumold note. “It is very likely that business records orders like this exist for every major American telecommunication company, meaning that, if you make calls in the United States, the NSA has those records.” (Emphasis mine.)

President Barack Obama has defended the practice, calling it "a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States." 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said at a news conference in D.C. that the court order in question “is a three-month renewal of an ongoing practice,” according to the Associated Press.

Former Vice President Al Gore tweeted that the domestic surveillance program is “obscenely outrageous.” More than 16,000 people have signed an emergency petition urging Congress to “investigate,” while the American Civil Liberties Union has launched a petition calling on the Obama Administration to stop it already.

Amid the well-founded outrage over a document conclusively revealing a widespread domestic spying program, what’s really fascinating is the ho-hum response of two whistleblowers formerly employed by the NSA, who went on Democracy Now! and basically said, duh, what took the mainstream media so long to notice? 

"Where has the mainstream media been? These are routine orders, nothing new," Thomas Drake told program host Amy Goodman. "What’s new is we’re seeing an actual order. And people are somehow surprised by it. The fact remains that this program has been in place for quite some time. It was actually started shortly after 9/11. The Patriot Act was the enabling mechanism that allowed the United States government in secret to acquire subscriber records from any company."

NSA whistleblower William Binney chimed in: “NSA has been doing all this stuff all along, and it’s been all the companies, not just one. And I basically looked at [the top secret order] and said, well, if Verizon got one, so did everybody else, which means that, you know, they’re just continuing the collection of this kind of information on all U.S. citizens. … There’s just—in my estimate, it was—if you collapse it down to all uniques, it’s a little over 280 million U.S. citizens are in there, each in there several hundred to several thousand times.”

The publication of this court order also came less as a revelation, and more of a confirmation of what they’ve been saying all along, for San Francisco-based EFF attorneys, who have been mired in a legal battle against the NSA on warrantless wiretapping for the better part of a decade.

(Things started to get rolling on that front on Jan. 20, 2006, when former AT&T employee Mark Klein waltzed into EFF’s office clutching a manila envelope containing technical corporate documents, “detailing the construction of the NSA's secret spying room in AT&T's San Francisco facility” on Folsom Street.)

“This type of untargeted, wholly domestic surveillance is exactly what EFF, and others, have been suing about for years,” Cohn and Rumold remind us.

Legally speaking, much of this debate pertains to Section 215 of the U.S. Patriot Act, which the federal government has relied upon to claim it has legal authority to conduct mass surveillance of communications.

In May of 2011, Sen. Ron Wyden issued a cryptic warning during a debate about the reauthorization of Section 215. “I want to deliver a warning this afternoon,” Wyden said. “When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry.”

Has that day arrived?


newspaper. Everyone knows it's a left-wing tabloid with no scruples, integrity or credibility.

If this catches one terrorist or prevents one incident, I'm comfortable with this, as someone with nothing to hide.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

"I'm comfortable" is this troll's standard response to invasion of privacy issues, just as "Aspen" is his standard meme on rent control. I think he hits refresh every 5 minutes so he can post first.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 1:08 pm

Any piece here on cops or surveillance and you are all over it like a syphilitic rash.

Predictable? You betcha.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

I guess I'm just predictable that way.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

And to stop those, we need to know what the bad guys are thinking.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

But how do you keep law enforcement back doors secure?

It is starting to become apparent that the only explanation for China's virtually total success in hacking US secrets is that it has access to the same back doors as US law enforcement.

Rumors were that earlier in the 1990s and 2000s under CALEA the US outsourced its traffic analysis to a foreign power (ok, Israel) through companies such as AMDOCS and Comverse Infosys, but it became infiltrated by foreign governments (ok, Russia) and organized crime.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

"paranoid about the Chinese" club lapse.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

Wait... exactly which journalist/government critic/whistleblower/Verizon customer that the government is spying on, is committing an act of terror? I must've missed that part.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 9:12 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2013 @ 5:25 am

I thought they did this through ECHELON. This shows its limits regarding cell phones rather than satellites?


"The proportion of international communications accounted for by satellite links is said to have decreased substantially over the past few years.... Thus, the majority of communications can no longer be intercepted by earth stations; they can only be collected by tapping cables and intercepting line-of-sight microwave signals, which is possible only to a limited extent."

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

Well it really has gone on forever.

"This series on NSA contractor scandals details the activities of the private companies that have taken over domestic surveillance under the Bush Administration. One of the most important of these corporations is Vertint, an Israel-based electronic communications surveillance outfit, which in alliance with VeriSign, the operator of the .com, .net, and .edu registries, monitors most of the sites on the World Wide Web. If you're viewing this article on a .com, NETDISCOVERY -- the Internet surveillance system developed jointly by Verint and VeriSign -- is monitoring your on-line experience at this very moment."

When Congress passed the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), all telephone networks operating within the United States were required by law to install equipment that would allow the FBI and other investigative agencies to tap your phone. At the time, that technology did not exist in the United States as an off-the-shelf product, but Comverse Infosys, a company headquartered in Israel, stepped into this market void with its well-developed telcom network surveillance systems.

By the year 2000, practically every broadband-capable phone system in the US and in many foreign countries were in the process of installing Comverse Infosys systems. Comverse Technology, Inc. is now also the leading vendor of commercially-available web-based surveillance equipment through its subsidiary, Verint. The company describes its products as capable of intercepting virtually all forms of network communications worldwide: http://www.verint.com/lawful_interception/index.cfm


Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

The reason we cannot stop Chinese hacking is because US law enforcement insists on an insecure telecom network, not because we cannot build tight security.


"The FBI believes it can have it both ways: that it can open systems to its eavesdropping, but keep them secure from anyone else's eavesdropping. That's just not possible. It's impossible to build a communications system that allows the FBI surreptitious access but doesn't allow similar access by others. When it comes to security, we have two options: We can build our systems to be as secure as possible from eavesdropping, or we can deliberately weaken their security. We have to choose one or the other.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 2:19 pm

Where have you been, dude? How's tricks?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 2:33 pm

The thought that Obama is going to ask China to please stop hacking our networks tomorrow has me kind of bemused.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 2:36 pm

Where have I heard that before?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 2:45 pm


ps to be interpreted as intended.

Posted by GuestofHonor on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 2:57 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 3:23 pm

Wholesale leggings from China leggings Wholesalers. You can Online Wholesale tight leggings,Wholesale knitted Leather leggings and more, Best quality and Cheap price Jeggings in China.
Wholesale Jegging
leggings China manufacturer
leggings manufacturer

Posted by Wholesale Jegging on Dec. 17, 2013 @ 12:44 am