Thursday, June 6, 2013
The Obama administration is defending itself against charges it secretly obtained records for Verizon phone calls made in the United States, arguing that the policy is a vital tool in monitoring terrorists and has the approval of “all three branches of government,” according to a senior administration official.
“On its face, the order reprinted in the article does not allow the government to listen in on anyone’s telephone calls,” said the official, who asked not to be named. “The information acquired does not include the content of any communications or the name of any subscriber. It relates exclusively to metadata, such as a telephone number or the length of a call.”
Still, the official declined to confirm the authenticity of the classified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order published Wednesday by Britain’s Guardian newspaper, which described a wide sweep of Verizon calls both domestic and international by Americans by the National Security Agency.
“Information of the sort described in the Guardian article has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States, as it allows counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States,” the official said.
Several news outlets reported in 2006 that the Bush administration was compiling a massive database of Americans’ long-distance and international calls. Some telecom companies denied they were taking part in the program, but Bush administration officials never denied the broad outlines of the story. Some officials pointed to court rulings saying Americans had no privacy interest in information such as the numbers dialed on a phone.
It had not previously been confirmed that the Obama administration was conducting similar broad surveillance of calling patterns. However, in 2008 Congress amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to give explicit legal authority to aspects of the program President George W. Bush initiated without requiring a future blessing from lawmakers.
Then-presidential candidate Barack Obama opposed the legislation during his primary battle with Hillary Clinton. However, he reversed course shortly after clinching the nomination…
Full article: http://www.politico. … l-records-92315.html