Friday, June 7, 2013

Wired: how the NSA/FBI mislead the public about the true scope of their national surveillance dragnet

In 2012 the Justice Department only asked the FISA court for "business records" (section 215 of the Patriot Act) 200 times. Sounds benign enough for a nation of 300 million doesn't it? Well, it's not. Wired explains why:
      Thanks to the Guardian’s scoop, we now know definitively just how misleading these numbers are. You see, while the feds are required to disclose the number of orders they apply for and receive (almost always the same number, by the way), they aren’t required to say how many people are targeted in each order. So a single order issued to Verizon Business Solutions in April covered metadata for every phone call made by every customer. That’s from one order out of what will probably be about 200 reported in next year’s numbers.
     ...The court that’s supposed to be protecting Americans from abusive domestic surveillance is not only failing in that duty, it’s also lazy.      Thanks to that laziness, we can fairly surmise that the orders are routine, and they are served on other carriers. Probably all of them. And probably continuously, renewed every three months for the last seven years.
      That means the Administration has a database of every call to suicide prevention, every tip to a government fraud whistleblowing hotline, every call to the “find a meeting” number for every Alcoholics Anonymous chapter. And all it told us was that it uses the USA Patriot Act every now and then.

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