Glenn Greenwald obtained a copy of a top secret order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court requiring telecommunications provider Verizon to provide the National Security Agency with information on ”all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.”
“Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.”
“The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual. Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target who is suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets.”
Marc Ambinder explains what the NSA can do with this data.
“The telephone metadata is stored in a database called MARINA, which keeps these records for at least five years… the NSA can collect the data so long as there is a good chance that it might need it for some future investigation. They can’t use the data unless there is a specific reason, a specific tip, a tip that has been — in theory, according to the rules as I understand them — certified by the attorney general.”
“If they only compile these transactional records and don’t do anything with them, and they faithfully honor this distinction, then the scale of the actual surveillance is not necessarily harmful, although it feels heavy. That’s a big if. It depends on whether you believe the NSA follows the rules.”