EFF rage at alleged gathering of phone data of millions of US citizens

6 Jun 2013

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has responded angrily to reports that the National Security Agency (NSA) in the US is alleged to be gathering data on private US citizens. It is understood one of the United States’ largest telecoms operators Verizon was issued with a top secret court order in April to hand over telephone records of millions of its customers.

The Guardian has reported that Verizon was ordered on “an ongoing daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems both within the US and in other countries.

According to the newspaper the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (CISA) granted the order to the FBI on 25 April which gives the US Government unlimited authority to obtain the data up until 19 July.

Numbers of both parties on a call are to be handed over as well as location data, call duration, unique identifiers and the time and duration of the calls.

For organisations like the EFF the order confirms what it and others have been claiming about the extent of domestic surveillance occurring in the US today.

The EFF says that similar orders have been issued to other telecoms operators and that the practice has existed for over seven years now, possibly even longer.

“This type of untargeted, wholly domestic surveillance is exactly what EFF, and others have been suing about for years. In 2006, USA Today published a story disclosing that the NSA had compiled a massive database of call records from American telecommunications companies.

“Our case, Jewel v. NSA, challenging the legality of the NSA’s domestic spying program, has been pending since 2008, but it’s predecessor, Hepting v. AT&T filed in 2006, alleged the same surveillance.

“In 2011, on the 10th Anniversary of the Patriot Act, we filed a FOIA lawsuit against the Department of Justice for records about the government’s use of Section 215 (of the Patriot Act)  – the legal authority the government was relying on to perform this type of untargeted surveillance,” the EFF said.

The EFF said that many Americans will be angry at the interpretation of the Patriot Act that provides security forces with private call information.

“It’s time to stop hiding behind legal privileges and to come clean about Section 215 and FISA. It’s time to start the national dialogue about our rights in the digital age. And it’s time to end the NSA’s unconstitutional domestic surveillance programme,” the EFF raged.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years