By now every sentient being on the planet knows that the National Security Agency ordered Verizon back in April to give it the phone records of its customers. They also know that it was signed by a phony judge of a phony court under an illegal section of an unconstitutional law passed by congress and then reauthorized by another congress.
I’ve looked into this a little bit and here’s what I’ve found. Judge Roger Vinson, a senior federal judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida and of the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court, ruled back in April to grant a request from the FBI to provide “tangible things” from Verizon. The order is to expire on July 19th.
The language of the order is worth exploring:
The custodian of records [for Verizon] shall produce to the National Security Agency (NSA) … and continue production on an ongoing daily basis … an electronic copy of the following tangible things … all call detail records or “telephony metadata” … including originating and termination telephone number … telephone calling card numbers, and time and duration of call.
Telephony metadata does not include the substantive content of any communication … or the name, address, or financial information of a subscriber or customer.
What’s missing here? Any reference to the Fourth Amendment, for starters, which demands that
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.
Utterly lacking is any description of the things to be seized, except under the general heading of “tangible things” which excludes the “substantive content” of any communication, whatever that means.
A lot of people are upset about this, including Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU, who said this revelation “could hardly be more alarming. It’s a program in which millions of innocent people have been put under the constant surveillance of government agents.” He added:
It’s analogous to the FBI stationing an agent outside every home in the country to track who goes in and who comes out. It is beyond Orwellian, and it provides further evidence of the extent to which basic democratic rights are being surrendered in secret to the demands of unaccountable intelligence agencies.
Jaffer’s right, of course. He’s just a tad late to the party, however. Back in May I wrote about government surveillance of phone calls following the Boston bombing which my editor at The New American thought important enough to put as the Last Word in the June 3rd edition of the print magazine.
But this has been going on for years. How about One Nation Under Surveillance, published back in 2009? Or how about The Citizen’s Last Stand, published late last year by good friend Jeff Wright, an intelligence expert who came in from the cold to tell about this as well?
The White House, after dithering, decided to defend it by saying in essence that giving up a little more freedom to gain more safety was a good thing. That’s been the justification mantra of dictators for centuries. Nothing new here.
What I’m most hopeful about is that this: coming on top of the IRS overreach, the revelations over Benghazi that simply refuse to go away, the increasing awareness of potential links of the Boston bombers to Russia’s secret service, etc., etc., that enough citizens are finally getting mad enough to begin to put some backbone into their representatives to push Obama and Holder out the door.