Leaked secret order shows Verizon being forced to hand over phone records to the NSA [updated]

Under a secret Government order issued in April, the National Security Agency is collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers in the U.S. British newspaper, the Guardian, has gained access to a copy of the order:

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The order was granted on April 25 by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and gives the U.S. Government the unlimited power to obtain the phone records over a three month period. This ends on July 19. Under the terms, the numbers of both parties on a call, time, duration, location data and unique identifiers are all handed over. Conversation information however, is not.

Verizon and The White House declined further comment to the Guardian, as you might expect, but this information is sure to spark its fair share of hostile reactions. Former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, has taken to Twitter to make his own feelings known. What isn't known is whether this order is specific to Verizon. It's sure to spark debate, so please do drop into the comments with your own thoughts and feelings on this one, particularly Verizon customers. How do you feel right now?

Update: British news channel, Sky News, has just said via their breaking news Twitter feed that a "senior Obama administration official" has confirmed that this data is being collected from Verizon customers.

Source: the Guardian

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Richard Devine

Senior Editor at iMore, part time racing driver, full time British guy

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Reader comments

Leaked secret order shows Verizon being forced to hand over phone records to the NSA [updated]

24 Comments

Some will say- "If you're not doing anything wrong, what's the big deal?" The big deal is that your privacy was secretly violated by the government and neither them nor Verizon, will discuss it. That may not be a big deal to people who don't care about their privacy being violated, but it's definitely a big deal to people who value their civil liberties, in this country. Foreigners will appreciate this much more, since they came to this country in order to enjoy the freedoms that some of us Americans take lightly. There seems to be a lot of dirty little secrets coming out about our government lately. The Secret Service buying "Services" from prostitutes when they should've been doing their duty. The IRS targeting conservative groups, Sexual assault in the military. Disgraced general caught in an affair stepping down from his post. Now this. What other dirty deeds is our government up to?

Disturbing doesn't even begin to describe how it makes me feel. I have nothing to hide, and I'm sure the majority of people are the same way. But that's not the point. I have a right to a reasonable expectation of privacy regardless of whether or not I am "hiding" anything.

What if I have friends or family who live in the Middle East and I call them occasionally? Does that mean I'm suddenly a target of the NSA and other Government agencies? Am I going to be labeled as a "potential terrorist" by the CIA for having "ties" to a region?

Post 9/11 paranoia at its best. And to all of the people who try and claim that we should concede some of our rights for safety, you're wrong, you're dead wrong. Our enemies would love nothing more than to see the U.S. Government continue to chip away at people's rights, especially when it comes to privacy.

Man, Verizon is actively starting to BEG me to go to AT&T next time, between this and the no more upgrades at 20 months...

But seriously, I am usually the "hey, I don't have anything to hide, no big deal camp" but this is disturbing. Every customer, every day, every call? Oh, I wonder if these are some of the costs covered by all those "network enhancement" fees?

Trust me... NOTHING about AT&T is good enough to run away from Verizon for. I gladly pay $5/month extra, subject myself to possible government eavesdropping and wait (God forbid) the FULL 24-month contract before upgrading to the newest iPhone just to not have AT&T. I love Verizon, and their service (all things/services considered) is the BEST; I've had Sprint, AT&T and Verizon, although I've only had the iPhone on AT&T and Verizon.

Oh, I hear you. There was some sarcasm there. Had sprint/Nextel, AT&T. Always back to Verizon.

You can thank the Patriot Act for this. We are all now "suspect" under its provisions, and as such, are treated with little-to-no regard for privacy any more. And it's not just Verizon. AT&T was found data-mining for the NSA a few years ago too: https://www.eff.org/cases/hepting

I wonder what the responses would be if this read "Data secretly collected by the govt prevents terror attack that targeted the US". What if the target was your work place? Or your child's school or daycare? Would you still be upset that govt had this information?

Leave Verizon? Why? If the govt is "forcing" Verizon to do this, why wouldn't they do it to AT&T/T-Mobile.

I agree with you, 100%, about there not being a point in holding VZW responsible (thus leaving the service). The NSA is responsible, and unfortunately, they can pull (and have pulled) this stunt elsewhere, too.

Verizon's "Share Everything" plans are literal now?? And why is the UK Press doing the hard reporting on this? Is the US media afraid to report on their chosen one in a bad light?

Media outlets in the USA are biased. Some are biased liberal, some are biased conservative. The problem is, they are all biased in some way.

What most people don't grasp is the wide spread reach of such an action. For this data to be useful, it has to be aggregated into a larger personal profile. When this profile, containing your biographical data, phone calls, spending habits, etc. is then used to pre-judge you, it becomes antithesis to the American notation of privacy. When you apply for your government mandated health insurance plan, do you want them to know how many times you called your doctor's phone number? How many times you called your car insurance's claims number? How often you eat at fast-food restaurants? Your calling history is just one piece of this profile that if you willingly accept giving up your rights over, you accept giving up all rights to privacy.

In the grand scheme of things - I want to make it known, however, that I am NOT a conspiracy theorist - this is just another piece of the puzzle (the picture of which happens to be the perception that our government is trying to suppress the power of our citizens). I know that you, Richard, are in the UK, so I'm not sure how much of our politics you are currently aware, but citizens are being persecuted for not being "politically correct" or for saying something that offends someone else (1st amendment violation), the Obama administration attempted to have everyone register their guns, submit to an extensive background check and have all assault rifles banned from public ownership (2nd amendment violation), and now they are infringing on our implied right to privacy. The right to privacy is not in the Constitution, nor is it in the Bill of Rights, however the BoR does have a 9th amendment which states, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." "Retained by the people" includes the implied right to privacy, as made clear by the Supreme Court, in cases such as Loving v Virginia, Griswold v Connecticut and, more importantly, Olmstead v US (where Justice Brandeis stated the Framers had "the right to be left alone.")

All that said, for this particular piece of the puzzle, I tend to overlook such activity, because it's something that is done in the background and goes (for the most part) unnoticed. Do I have anything ti hide? No. Am I concerned that this will eventually lead to governmental tyranny? Slightly.

I've always figured they we're doing this anyways. Face it, no electronic communication is private, unless you use some open source encryption, but I even doubt that is. If you need to say something private, better go talk to the person out in the middle of a field.

Americans are scared, so they will continue giving up more and more of the rights fought so hard for by our forefathers. Its a shame that our government fears its citizens, or is it?

If this surprises ANYONE, then I have a ocean front condo in Arizona for sale for $50.00

If even 1/16th of Americans only knew what's been going on for years, they wall would've been trying to get off the grid for at least a decade.