White House Defends Right To Collect Your Phone Records

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 6 2013 9:59 AM

The White House Won't Say If It's Collecting Your Phone Records, But Defends Its Right To Anyway

104052128
President Obama is videoed by an attendee with an iPhone as he delivers remarks at the Historically Blacks Colleges and Universities (HCBUs) reception in the White House on September 13, 2010 in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images

The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald went live late last night with the story that will be driving the conversation in D.C. today:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.
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 document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.
Advertisement

The order covers: the phone numbers of both parties on a call, the time and duration of the call, unique identifiers, and location data. According to Greenwald, the actual conversation itself is not recorded.

The order was granted by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on April 25 and remains valid until July 19. It's unclear, however, whether the order is one in a series or a one-off, and whether similar orders have been issued to other telecomm companies. According to its first-quarter earnings report from earlier this year, Verizon currently has about 99 million wireless customers, and another 22 million residential and commercial phone lines. It is unclear which type of customer records were being tracked.

Verizon has declined comment on the story. The White House hasn't weighed in on the record, but unnamed administration sources are managing to both avoid confirming the specific story while at the same time defending the NSA's need to collect the phone records of Americans.

One official told the Associated Press that such information is "a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats." An official (perhaps the same one, perhaps not) went slightly further when speaking to Reuters, saying that the general policy "allows counter-terrorism 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."

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

Hidden Messages in Corporate Logos

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

How Can We Investigate Potential Dangers of Fracking Without Being Alarmist?

My Year as an Abortion Doula       

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 15 2014 8:56 PM The Benghazi Whistleblower Who Might Have Revealed a Massive Scandal on his Poetry Blog
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 15 2014 4:38 PM What Is Straight Ice Cream?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 15 2014 8:58 PM Lorde Does an Excellent Cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 15 2014 4:49 PM Cheetah Robot Is Now Wireless and Gallivanting on MIT’s Campus
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 15 2014 11:00 AM The Comet and the Cosmic Beehive
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.