PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The White House is defending a court order that gives the government permission to collect the phone records of millions of Verizon customers.
The secret court order — obtained last April and still in effect — has stirred strong reaction.
Anyone who uses Verizon landlines or cell phones now has information about their calls being submitted by Verizon to the National Security Agency.
First reported by the Guardian newspaper in Great Britain, this top secret court order requires Verizon to produce telephony metadata to the government.
“Telephony metadata is information about what phone number is calling what other phone number and the location of those devices,” says Professor Lorrie Cranor, a Carnegie Mellon University international expert on cyber security.
Cranor told KDKA political editor Jon Delano that she suspects that other secret court orders cover telephone providers like AT&T and Sprint.
After all, this order is the 80th order issued this year.
“It seems unlikely to me that they’d only be looking at Verizon,” noted Cranor.
The government apparently wants to know every telephone number you’ve called and every number that called you. Why? Because they want to match those numbers against suspected terrorists, but many say this is incredible over-reaching.
“That information is private and should be held private,” says Chad Stanko of Ross.
“I think it’s an invasion of my privacy,” adds Fran Kvorjak of Braddock Hills.
“What was the presentation made that led to a judge saying, you can have access to that broad scope of records? It would have to be a very compelling and unambiguous threat to our national security,” said Sen. Bob Casey.
House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers says this has been ongoing for years and claims it did “stop a terrorist attack in the United States. We know that.”
“This isn’t necessarily a proportionately appropriate way of fighting terrorism,” observed CMU’s Cranor. “We may be heading toward a Big Brother era.”