The order, issued in April by the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and leaked on the Internet by the Guardian (U.K.), compels Verizon to provide these records on an “ongoing daily basis” to hand over to the domestic spy agency “an electronic copy” of “all call detail records created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”
This information includes the phone numbers involved, the electronic identity of the device, the calling card numbers (if any) used in making the calls, and the time and duration of the call.
In other words, if you are a Verizon customer, your detailed phone records secretly have been handed over — and will continue to be handed over — to NSA agents.
In other words, millions of innocent Americans have had their call records shared with a federal spy agency in open and hostile defiance of the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee of “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” and “no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Glen Greenwald of the Guardian (U.K.) details the data being seized by the NSA:
The information is classed as "metadata", or transactional information, rather than communications, and so does not require individual warrants to access. The document also specifies that such "metadata" is not limited to the aforementioned items. A 2005 court ruling judged that cell site location data — the nearest cell tower a phone was connected to — was also transactional data, and so could potentially fall under the scope of the order.
While the order itself does not include either the contents of messages or the personal information of the subscriber of any particular cell number, its collection would allow the NSA to build easily a comprehensive picture of who any individual contacted, how and when, and possibly from where, retrospectively.
Greenwald’s accurate analysis raises a couple of very important questions.
First, why would agents of the federal government willingly violate the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution by seizing phone logs of millions of innocent Americans?
As quoted by Greenwald, the Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez remarked, “We've certainly seen the government increasingly strain the bounds of 'relevance' to collect large numbers of records at once — everyone at one or two degrees of separation from a target — but vacuuming all metadata up indiscriminately would be an extraordinary repudiation of any pretence [sic] of constraint or particularized suspicion.”
Can anyone doubt that?
Far from running scared from repercussions from its betrayal of customers’ privacy and constitutional protections of the right of people to be free from unwarranted searches and seizures, Verizon's August 16 statement demonstrates the sort of brazen boasts that are the prerogative of those under the protections of government.