NSA Raises Eyebrows With Reported Verizon Data-Collection Program

The U.S government is reportedly gathering information on phone calls made by millions of Verizon customers, much to the chagrin of many civil liberties groups.

The National Security Agency is collecting data on calls made both between the U.S. and other nations, as well as on calls placed and received domestically. The news comes from a secret court order, handed down in April, that The Guardian got its hands on and published on Thursday. The U.K. website says the records are being collected in bulk, and not based on whether someone is predicted of planning anything malicious.

The FBI asked for the order and it was granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on April 25. It gives the government authority to gather the data through July 19. It includes telephone numbers, call duration, location information and more. The content of the conversations, however, is not covered by the order.

It’s unknown, The Guardian reported, if Verizon is the only major U.S. wireless operator to be targeted, but it widely suspects, based on reports over the years, that it is not.

While Verizon declined to comment to the U.K. website, the Obama Administration simply said such monitoring is "a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States."

Up to now, the largest controversy of this kind came after 9/11, when the NSA, under the Bush administration, implemented a surveillance program that involved the collection of domestic Internet, email and phone records. It was later reported that the agency was collecting phone records of tens of millions of AT&T and Verizon customers to detect terrorist activity. The Guardian notes that there’s no evidence to this point that the Obama administration has implemented such a widespread program.

Follow senior online managing editor @Craig_Galbraith on Twitter.

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