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The government can hear you now: Obama administration secretly collecting records of Verizon calls

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 6th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Obama administration is secretly collecting records of Verizon calls according to a highly classified court order leaked to The Guardian Wednesday night.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - An order to collect Verizon phone records was issued in April by the Obama administration in the wake of the Boston terrorist attacks. The order was signed by Judge Roger Vinson of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

READ THE TOP SECRET ORDER HERE

Specifically, the order asks Verizon subsidiary, Verizon Business Network Services, to provide "on a daily basis" all call logs "between the United States and abroad" or "wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls." Those records are to be provided to the National Security Agency.

The order does not apply to the actual content of those conversations, just the call logs themselves.

Verizon Business Networks is one of the nation's largest telecommunications networks for business.

It is unknown if similar orders have been issued for all residential and cellular communications outside the business subsidiary. Verizon is refusing to comment.

The Obama administration has also refused to comment.

The order is based on a 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that allows domestic surveillance for security purposes. That law was expanded by the Patriot Act.

The order is marked "top secret" and was not ever intended for public release, although some members of Congress have alluded to its existence and the existence of similar doings.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) have warned the public that the government has been up to something troubling. "We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted Section 215 of the Patriot Act," they wrote in 2012 in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.

They explained: "As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows. This is a problem, because it is impossible to have an informed public debate about what the law should say when the public doesn't know what its government thinks the law says."

Previous attempts by the New York Times and other watchdog groups to obtain information have been stonewalled by the Obama administration. The Justice Department insists the monitoring operations are legal but it's difficult to tell without more information from the administration and knowing how they are interpreting the law.

The New York Times filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in 2011 to learn how the Obama administration was interpreting its powers under the Patriot Act, but that lawsuit was dismissed by the judge after the Obama administration moved to withhold their report.

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