U.S. Secretly Collecting Telephone Records of Millions of Americans

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The United States government is carrying out a top secret domestic surveillance program under which it is collecting the call data of millions of Americans on an "ongoing, daily basis." According to a document posted on the The Guardian's website, on April 25th of this year the U.S. government obtained a classified court order that required Verizon to begin handing over call data to the National Security Agency and the F.B.I.

The top secret order, which is approved by a so called FISA Court under the revamped Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, confirms the Obama administration's interest in a tactic of intelligence gathering that the President once opposed as a candidate for the White House but now seems to embrace

James Bamford is one of the country's leading authorities on the N.S.A. and author of several books, including "The Shadow Factory: The NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America." He wrote extensively on the N.S.A.'s expansion for Wired Magazine.


James Bamford

Produced by:

Elizabeth Ross

Comments [16]

Winter from Houston, Texas (US)


At the end of this segment, the guest references Orwell, making this yet another of countless examples of pundits who do not understand what Orwell was writing about in "1984".

The collecting of telephone records IS NOT Orwellian, not if you understand what the Party was trying to do, which is not the same as what our government is trying to do.

Jun. 07 2013 01:49 PM
Al from The Pacific NW from Pacific NW

While I assumed it was this bad, I am really annoyed to see that under Obama it's worse than it could have been. I think Dr. Martin Luther King's last speech said it best, with additions that he likely would have stated:

"If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. (adding) Somewhere I read about protection from unwarranted search and seizure. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights. Fourth Amendment states:The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, 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.

Jun. 06 2013 04:19 PM
Lawrence Glanzer from Chesapeake, Virginia

Idon't necessarily want to defend this program of surveillance, but I do think that you have made some statements that are either unsupported by evidence or misleading:

1. You started by talking about cell phone users as the targets of the program. While they may also be under surveillance, what I understood to have been disclosed today was that Verizon business system customers were the ones named in the warrant. These are not the same as cell phone customers.

2. You said that this far exceeds anything that has gone on before. How do you know this? You really don't know any more than what the Guardian published today. You don't know what the Bush administration did or, for that matter, the Clinton administration or any previous administration. It's all been top secret and none of is likely to know who did what to whom in the past.

3. You asserted that the president, when campaigning in 2008, opposed this kind of surveillance, and played a recording of a campaign speech in which President Obama criticized the Bush administration's policies. What he actually said, if you'd listened, was that he opposed warrantless wiretapping and surveillance. A warrant was issued in this case.

4. You may not like the system of secret courts and secret warrants, and I probably don't like them, either, but that is what Congress put in place and the President would likely be subject to harsh criticism if he didn't use a tool against terrorism that he was authorized to use and something terrible happened as a result.

5. You asserted that this secret warrant is being used against more than suspected terrorists. You have no way of knowing why the warrant was issued or what the government was trying to accomplish. You have assumed the worst, with no real basis for doing so. It may turn out that you were right, but that would not be a a result of anything other than hindsight.

6. If you really want something to be upset about, you might look at the vast intrusions into your privacy that are committed every day by unknown parties as a result of permissions given to the apps you install on your cell phone. Those permissions are blithely given, without a thought to consequences. The fact that apps get those permissions routinely, when they are completely unnecessary to the performance of the apps, is very troubling.

Jun. 06 2013 01:46 PM
Concerned Observer

The surveillance by the government (Obama & Bush) is what President Reagan described about what the communist countries did – so I guess we have become a communist country. And it is being done under the drama of protecting our freedom. Government has become a burden to republic it was conceived. The government uses different sets of commandments:

Thou shall cheat and deceit to win elections.
Thou shall create debt while speaking of financial responsibility.
Thou shall create big government while speaking against it.
Thou shall raise taxes on poor and middle class while lowering on the rich.
Thou shall shift the auditing the rich to auditing the middle and poor.
Thou shall create war of civilization with uncivilized acts.
Thou shall talk about peace while conducting war.
Thou shall fund both sides of the conflict while proclaiming to act neutral.
Thou shall fabricate evidence and attack others.
Thou shall kill innocent women and children and claim they were insurgents.
Thou shall commit crimes and be their own investigator.
Thou shall declare people who react to their crimes as terrorists.
Thou shall create illusion of success by quoting false statistics.
Thou shall talk about human rights while authorizing torture.
Thou shall speak of democracy while supporting dictatorships.
Thou shall cut & run while preaching staying the course.
Thou shall confuse public about public policy.
Thou shall spy on citizens in the name of security.
Thou shall create perpetual fear to create absolute police state.
Thou shall make media the mouth piece of police state.
Thou shall plunder other nations' treasury to distribute among friends.
Thou shall use religion to provoke people against people.
Thou shall create doubt when presented with facts.
Thou shall remain in state of denial regardless of overwhelming evidence.
Thou shall declare “Evidence of Corruption” as classified information.
Thou shall give raise to Senate, Congress and Executive Branch while defeating living wage.
Thou shall cut funding to agencies that might keep an eye on government’s objective.
Thou shall spend more on prisons and cut education spending.
Thou shall build first class prisons and third class education system.
Thou shall fight crime with force instead of creating jobs.
Thou shall bail out Wall Street by plundering tax payer treasury.
Thou shall socialize investment banker losses and privatize public health care.
Thou shall let public infrastructure deteriorate paving the way for private developers.

Jun. 06 2013 12:53 PM

the only message telecom companies will come to grips with is "their money pocket" as a verizon customer, we need to start on online petition to discontinue subscribing with verizon for their violation of our privacy and liberties.

Jun. 06 2013 12:35 PM

Carol, theres a SLIGHT difference between spying on OUR Government and IT spying on US! You are from where?

Jun. 06 2013 12:31 PM

the only message telecom companies will come to grips with is "their money pocket" as a verizon customer, we need to start on online petition to discontinue subscribing with verizon for their violation or our privacy and liberties.

Jun. 06 2013 12:31 PM
Paul from FL

Big brother is watching, the only
Americans exempt are the POLITICIANS.
They make the laws that apply to the people and not to them.
We have no privacy.........

Jun. 06 2013 12:30 PM
kent martin from Dallas

This is insane. Big brother is getting way too invasive. I have no secrets in my communications but this is prime for abuse and not likely to catch anyone involved in terrorism. We need to roll this back!

Jun. 06 2013 12:20 PM
CarlJohnson from Winter Park,FL

John - I know that you were having a bit of fun at the opening of your program labelling VERIZON cellphone users are 'sleeper cell phone usere' - but we only know that VERIZON was a signer of this FISA agreement - however it is likely that the other phone companies like AT&T, SPRINT etc would have also been 'requested' for this information. Additionally - In the VERIZON documents it specifically states that VERIZON is enjoined not to speak about this data gathering so who is to say if this is not going on at the other cellphone companies... I thhink I will go back to using smoke signals!!

Jun. 06 2013 12:14 PM
Alejandro Casuso from Florida

I rather die a free person with full civil liberties that go on living ever fearful of my government. When tyrannies are established, the free press is first abolished, then guns are taken away from the citizens, and, finally, personal conversations are directly infringed upon. Since the “Patriot Act”, our own government has secretly seized A.P.’s phone records, has tried to limit the type of weapons law abiding citizens can purchase and create a data base of those who purchase any kind of weapon, has used the I.R.S. to arbitrarily increased scrutiny on certain groups, and finally, has surveilled private phone calls. Democracy can only exist where there is freedom of the press and citizens have the right to bear arms and to assemble freely without fear of government interference. Therefore, I question the argument that the most important tool used by the government to fight terrorist requires citizens to surrender our most basic and most important civil liberties and democratic ideas. If to fight off terrorist it is necessary to establish what is tantamount to a tyrant government, I rather begin a policy of direct and forceful retaliation against those who try to cause suffering upon our nation.

Jun. 06 2013 10:20 AM

Is this domestic eavesdropping for national security against terrorists or political dirty tricks against law abiding political opposition?

Any "journalists" care to inquire about how "nobody has ever gone this far" as we approach the 40th anniversary of Watergate summer?

Jun. 06 2013 10:17 AM
Lawrence from Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Think about it: If we have a terror attack, the republican gangsters/thugs would scream that Obama didn't protect them. They would call for his impeachment.

Jun. 06 2013 09:49 AM
Bob from Brooklyn, NY

GoPhone (AT&T prepaid cell phone)

Jun. 06 2013 09:31 AM
Carol from New York City

I imagine that there are some who are outraged by this collection of data that will also defend Julian Assange's having and disseminating every piece of private information he can get his hands on– by any means.

Jun. 06 2013 09:19 AM

Bush takes an inch = outrage
Obama takes a mile = shoulder shrug

The UK press does the work the US press won't do and the reaction is "nothing to see here" and besides it's the new normal.....until we get a Republican President.

How can anyone take the US news media seriously anymore?

Jun. 06 2013 09:17 AM

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