EDITOR’S NOTE: Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers
It’s scary: Uncle Sam knows who’s talking to whom
What was thought to be domestic overreach by the George W. Bush administration in the name of national security now appears to be standard practice under the Obama administration. And to the justified shock of many, the spying goes beyond mass surveillance of Verizon telephone consumers — as originally disclosed — to surveillance of Sprint and AT&T customers and on to major Internet providers, among them Google, Apple, Yahoo and Microsoft.
This story broke when London’s Guardian newspaper reported on a secret court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, itself a secret panel, authorizing the National Security Agency to collect the telephone records of Verizon’s U.S. customers, potentially 121 million subscribers.
The order, permitted through the Patriot Act, covered phone numbers and locations of both parties on the call, its time and duration, and what are called “unique identifiers.”
A former intelligence official revealed to The Associated Press the order applied to other telecommunication companies and all U.S. phone companies. The three-month order was renewed regularly.
The program began at least seven years ago, according to Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, putting its origins in the Bush administration. For a change, it appears key members of Congress were briefed on the program — at least none of them appeared surprised. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the program was necessary for homeland safety, and privacy rights were carefully protected.
Her House counterpart, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said the records thwarted a “significant” terrorist attack on the United States a few years ago, but did not give details. A White House spokesman called the program “a critical tool” in fighting security threats.