updated 08:57 am EDT, Thu June 6, 2013
Mass call record logs provided to NSA on daily basis
Verizon must hand over millions of records of phone calls to the National Security Agency (NSA), according to a leaked secret court order. According to the instructions, Verizon must provide call records and "telephony metadata" for calls it handles between people in the United States and international phone numbers, as well as calls within the US borders.
The order, picked up by British newspaper the Guardian, notes that this data includes "comprehensive communications routing information," which involves the originating and terminating telephone numbers, the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI), the International Mobile station Equipment Identity (IMEI), trunk identifier, telephone calling card numbers, and the date and time of the call. The actual content of the call, identity or financial information of any parties within the call will not be provided.
The document was granted to the FBI through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) on April 25th, and details that such data would have to be provided on an "ongoing, daily basis" until it runs out on July 19th. The order is also classified as Top Secret, and would normally have been declassified on the 12th of April 2038. As such, Verizon is not permitted to disclose the order to its customers or to anyone else, except to individuals for compliance purposes and an attorney. The source of the document was not revealed by the report.
When asked for comment, Verizon declined, most likely due to the order's restrictions. Requests were also made to the NSA and the White House, and though the NSA remains silent, the White House has issued a statement, defending the practice. The statement received by the Associated Press calls it a "critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats," though a senior Obama administration official stopped short of outright confirming the leaked order's validity.
While an order for mass customer data records has been passed to Verizon, it is unknown if such a similar secret order is affecting other carriers, and short of another leak, the restrictions of the order make it unlikely for anyone external to the carriers and the security agencies to know about their existence.
Last month, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) issued a report condemning a number of technology companies for failing to protect its users from government snooping and requests from courts and law enforcement. Verizon failed to score a single star out of the six available, AT&T scored one star, and Comcast scored two. At the time, EFF staff attorney Nate Cardozo called the report a "wake-up call to Internet users" to make sure their data is protected by the services they use.