NSA not just monitoring Verizon, over 3 billion US calls monitored daily on all US citizens
Former employees of the National Security Agency say the publishing of a court order asking Verizon to hand over all its phone calling records for a three-month period opens a new window on an operation that has been in place for years and involves all major U.S. phone companies.
“NSA has been doing all this stuff all along, and it’s been all these companies, not just one,” William Binney told news program Democracy Now on Thursday. “They’re just continuing the collection of this data on all U.S. citizens.”
Binney is a 40 year vet of the NSA who left after 9/11 because of the expansion of surveillance on US citizens. Binney says they collect data on 3 billion calls a day.
“These are routine orders,” said Thomas Drake, another NSA whistleblower. “What’s new is we’re seeing an actual order, and people are surprised by it.”
“We’ve been saying this for years from the wilderness,” Drake told Democracy Now. “But it’s like, hey, everybody went to sleep while the government is collecting all these records.”
Drake started working for the NSA in 2001 and blew the whistle on what he saw as a wasteful and invasive program at the agency. He was later prosecuted for keeping classified information. Most of the charges were dropped before trial, and he was sentenced to one year of probation and community service.
NSA’s original charter was to eavesdrop on communications between countries, not inside the U.S.
The Guardian reported late Wednesday released an order from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, requesting Verizon to give the NSA the details on every phone call on its landline and wireless networks on a daily basis between April 25 and July 19.
Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile USA, three of the largest phone companies, said they had no comment on the matter. A representative from Sprint did not respond to a message. Verizon’s general counsel emailed employees Thursday saying that the company has an obligation to obey court orders, but did not confirm the existence of an order.
James Bamford, a journalist and author of several books on the NSA, said it’s very surprising to see that the agency tracks domestic calls, including local calls. In 2006, USA Today reported that the NSA was secretly collecting a database of domestic call information. However, some phone companies denied any involvement in such a program.