NSA Whistleblowers: “All U.S. Citizens” Targeted by Surveillance Program, Not Just Verizon Customers

 

http://www.democracynow.org/2013/6/6/nsa_whistleblowers_all_us_citizens_targeted

A leaked court order has revealed the Obama administration is conducting a massive domestic surveillance program by collecting telephone records of millions of Verizon customers. The Guardian newspaper published a classified order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court directing Verizon’s Business Network Services to give the National Security Agency electronic data, including all calling records on an “ongoing, daily basis.” The order covers each phone number dialed by all customers, along with location and routing data, and with the duration and frequency of the calls, but not the contents of the communications.

We discuss the news with three guests: Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, and two former National Security Agency employees turned whistleblowers: Thomas Drake and William Binney. In 2010, the Obama administration charged Drake with violating the Espionage Act after he was accused of leaking classified information to the press about waste and mismanagement at the agency. The charges were later dropped. “Where has the mainstream media been? These are routine orders, nothing new,” Drake says. “What’s new is we’re seeing an actual order. And people are somehow surprised by it. The fact remains that this program has been in place for quite some time. It was actually started shortly after 9/11. The PATRIOT Act was the enabling mechanism that allowed the United States government in secret to acquire subscriber records from any company.”

Binney, who worked at nearly 40 years at the NSA and resigned shortly after the 9/11 attacks, says: “NSA has been doing all this stuff all along, and it’s been all the companies, not just one. And I basically looked at that and said: If Verizon got one, so did everybody else. Which means that they’re just continuing the collection of this kind of information of all U.S. citizens.”

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A leaked top-secret order has revealed the Obama administration is conducting a massive domestic surveillance program by collecting telephone records of millions of Verizon Business customers. Last night The Guardian newspaper published a classified order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court directing Verizon’s Business Network Services to give the National Security Agency electronic data, including all calling records on a, quote, “ongoing, daily basis.” The order covers each phone number dialed by all customers along with location and routing data, and with the duration and frequency of the calls, but not the content of the communications. The order expressly compels Verizon to turn over records for both international and domestic records. It also forbids Verizon from disclosing the existence of the court order. It is unclear if other phone companies were ordered to hand over similar information.

AMY GOODMAN: According to legal analysts, the Obama administration relied on a controversial provision in the USAPATRIOT Act, Section 215, that authorizes the government to seek secret court orders for the production of, quote, “any tangible thing relevant to a foreign intelligence or terrorism investigation.” The disclosure comes just weeks after news broke that the Obama administration had been spying on journalists from the Associated Press and James Rosen, a reporter from Fox News.

We’re now joined by two former employees of the National Security Agency, Thomas Drake and William Binney. In 2010, the Obama administration charged Drake with violating the Espionage Act after he was accused of leaking classified information to the press about waste and mismanagement at the agency. The charges were later dropped. William Binney worked for almost 40 years at the NSA. He resigned shortly after the September 11th attacks over his concern over the increasing surveillance of Americans. We’re also joined in studio here by Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

First, for your legal opinion, Shayana, can you talk about the significance of what has just been revealed?

SHAYANA KADIDAL: Sure. So I think, you know, we have had stories, including one in USA Today in May 2006, that have said that the government is collecting basically all the phone records from a number of large telephone companies. What’s significant about yesterday’s disclosure is that it’s the first time that we’ve seen the order, to really appreciate the sort of staggeringly broad scope of what one of the judges on this Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved of, and the first time that we can now confirm that this was under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which, you know, has been dubbed the libraries provision, because people were mostly worried about the idea that the government would use it to get library records. Now we know that they’re using it to get phone records. And just to see the immense scope of this warrant order, you know, when most warrants are very narrow, is really shocking as a lawyer.