FISA grants warrant for dragnet of domestic calls — what’s next?

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, June 06, 2013

UPDATE: ‘What’s next?’ Less than 24 hours later and we can answer that question. It’s called total content awareness, or PRISM, reported tonight by The Washington Post.

“I’m just an average man, with an average life. I work from nine to five; hey hell, I pay the price. All I want is to be left alone in my average home; But why do I always feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone, and I always feel like somebody’s watching me.” — Kennedy William ‘Rockwell’ Gordy.

Writer and constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald has an explosive scoop out today: the super secret Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court granted the FBI a warrant that amounts to a virtual dragnet on all Verizon customers’ calls between the U.S and foreign countries (Correction: and all calls “wholly within the United States” ) from April 25 to July 19. This means tens of millions of calls will or have been tracked by the government.

Why the court granted this warrant is not explained in the document, found here. Someone leaked the warrant to Greenwald who called Verizon, FBI and the National Security Agency (NSA), which is handling all the data, and was unable to get further comment. Verizon, as noted in the warrant is gagged from talking about the order at all.

The dragnet will record the following things: all “metadata” of calls made from the U.S to foreign countries — on a “daily, ongoing basis” for the duration of the order — which includes “session identifying information.” These are the originating and terminating numbers on the calls. Metadata also includes telephone calling card numbers, trunk identifiers, the time-stamp duration of each call,  International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) numbers, and “comprehensive communication routing information.”

Metadata does not include the names of the customers, addresses or billing records. All that would require individual warrants, noted Greenwald.

So far.

The FBI/NSA’s broad surveillance of domestic calls is unprecedented (that we know of) under the Obama Administration, but not entirely surprising. The ability to do all of this apparently falls under the Patriot Act [50 USC section 1861] or the “business records” provision of the legislation, passed by Congress in the wake of 9/11 (or at least this is the FBI’s apparent interpretation of it). The Patriot Act, the gift that keeps on taking.

Civil libertarians have warned from the beginning that these Patriot Act measures would eventually intrude on the privacy of ordinary Americans, but those voices were dismissed as paranoid and unpatriotic. Then the revelations of 2005 came: The Bush Administration had authorized the warrantless surveillance of Americans communicating with foreigners. As far as we know it never stopped, but the activity was codified in so called FISA “reforms” in 2008. President Barack Obama, then U.S Senator, signed off on that FISA bill and never looked back.

According to FISA, the Department of Justice filed 1,879 requests for searches in 2012 — 1,789 of them for electronic surveillance — a 6.7 percent increase over 2011. None of those warrants were denied. Some 15,229 requests for “national security letters,” which allow the government to snoop into American financial records under the Patriot Act were granted during the same year.

But what Greenwald is reporting is a entire step away from individual FISA warrants — it’s really elaborate data mining effort in which the FBI is looking for patterns and clues among the call information (much like the NSA’s secret data mining program under the Bush Administration). Agents will likely drill down further with new warrants (or not) when something among the ostensibly disparate numbers and codes draws their attention.

As Greenwald notes, “it is also unclear from the leaked document whether the three-month order was a one-off, or the latest in a series of similar orders.”

For years, groups like the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and individual lawmakers have warned that  both the Bush and Obama administrations were abusing the Patriot Act and using their own interpretations, secretly, to spy on Americans. Each year, new revelations emerge to indicate they are doing just that. We have whistleblowers contending that they saw it happening up close and personal. Yet America continues to shrug as if to say, I’m not doing anything wrong, why should I care?

Next time you pick up the phone, let that thought comfort you, if you can.




15 Responses to “FISA grants warrant for dragnet of domestic calls — what’s next?”

  1. It looks like the Verizon spokesman who "declined comment" to Glenn Greenwald's inquiries, Ed McFadden, was Att'y General John Ashcroft's Chief Speechwriter, so I guess his new role feels quite comfy for him. Makes one wonder where government ends and private industry begins.
    http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=13851480&…

  2. As ex-NSA truth-teller Binney and others on "Democracy Now" said this morning, "FISA is not a Foreign Intelligence Security Act but is a Security Act against all whistle blowers and journalists — including Assange and Greenwald".

    Or as I have been writing for some time, here and other progressive sites:

    "Obama's so-called 'counter-terrorism' campaign is really a 'counter-revolutionary' campaign against the truth-tellers who are exposing the Global EMPIRE.

    This 'counter-revolutionary' effort by the EMPIRE, with Obama as figure-head, is really out to suppress any truth-telling (like Wikileaks, Manning, Hammond, Assange — and in the future Hedges, Greenwald, Scahill, etc) which presents a danger to the EMPIRE of starting a Second American Revolution 'against EMPIRE'.

    The prime concern of the Secret Global Empire is no longer counter-terrorism against the 'others' in the foreign exploited and looted territories abroad, but has now turned to a defensive bunker mentality of the Empire right here in River City (in the homeland of the SGE) against any truth-telling revolutionary actors like Manning, Hammond, and even the progressive/left alt media and revolutionary journalists like Hedges, Greenwald, Parenti, Scahill, et al, who are a danger to the disguise of the Secret Global Empire.

    The EMPIRE's greatest danger and greatest vulnerability is not terrorism or insurgency in the foreign territories anymore, but is now revolutionary EXPOSURE of the Empire by the local and domestic indignados revealing and starting action movements against the EMPIRE in its own stolen HQ of our former country.

    The confrontation and the field of conflict has now shifted from the previous deceit of counter-terrorism against supposed foreign threats to the US HQ'ed Global Empire, to the much more real and threatening revolutionary truth-tellers (Manning, Hammond, Greenwald, Assange, et al.) who are starting to really hit the Global Empire where it lives, in its lair, secret HQ, homebase of the US!

    That is what really accounts for the maniacal and insanely vicious anti-revolutionary and anti-democratic, and anti-truth suppression war of the EMPIRE is now targeting Manning et al as it clearly is a primarily counter-revolutionary and counter-democracy campaign of the Secret Global Empire against any truth getting out that will recognize, reveal, expose, un-mask, 'call-out' and ignite confrontation against the well-disguised but extant SGE!

    As Hammond and Assange's lawyer Michael Ratner revealed the real truth on "Democracy Now" last week, when he said the only thing that would explain the insane viciousness of the attacks against Manning, Hammond, Assange and other truth-tellers is that they are endangering the core of the "Secrets of an EMPIRE".

    Best luck and love to the fast expanding 'Occupy the
    Empire' educational and revolutionary movement against this deceitful and disguised Secret Global EMPIRE, which can't so easily be identified as wearing RedCoats, Red Stars, nor funny looking Nazi
    helmets —- quite yet!

    Liberty, democracy, justice, and equality
    Over
    Violent/'Vichy'
    Empire,

    Alan MacDonald

    We don't merely have a gun/fear problem, or an MIC problem, or an 'Austerity' problem, or an expanding wars problem, or a 'drone assassinations' problem, or a vast income & wealth inequality problem, or a Wall Street 'looting' problem, or a Global Warming and environmental death-spiral problem, or adomestic tyranny NDAA FISA spying problem, or, or, or, or …. ad nauseam — we have a hidden EMPIRE cancerous tumor which is the prime CAUSE of all these 'symptom problems'.

    "If your country is treating you like sh*t, and bombing
    abroad, look carefully — because it may not be your country, but a Secret Global Empire only posing as your former country."

  3. [...] night news broke that a FISA court granted the NSA an insanely broad warrant for literally every single call made by Verizon customers over a several month period.Tens [...]

  4. Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act?

    It's supposed to be Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

  5. [...] night news broke that a FISA court granted the NSA an insanely broad warrant for literally every single call made by Verizon customers over a several month period.Tens [...]

  6. Very well said, amacd385. In the end, all decaying and despotic empires turn to cannibalism. Unfortunately, it's not going to go away quietly like the USSR did. The dying monster that is the American Empire is going to wreak even more enormous havoc on and shed much blood of not only the American people but on the rest of the world before it finally, eventually expires. Let's not allow ourselves to go quietly while it does.

  7. Correction, yes, it's supposed to be, and it is "posing as", the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, BUT it's really being used as a broad-based electronic drag-net and Surveillance Act (ie. "Enabling Act", as the Nazi Empire called theirs") to 'target' any truth-tellers who are exposing, 'un-masking', 'calling-out' or otherwise rallying serious democracy-committed and non-violent Americans to confront this disguised Secret Global Empire that has 'captured' and now fully "Occupies" our former country.

    The clear objective to the phony (and totally illegitimate) FISA spying act is to identify, uncover, and prosecute any truth-tellers (particularly left/progressive public intellectuals, and investigative journalists) who are the most dangerous categories to this DUAL-Party Vichy disguised Secret Global EMPIRE.

    As was said of the earlier (and merely European Nazi EMPIRE) —

    " First they came for the communists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

    Then they came for the socialists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

    (Then they came for the public intellectuals and academics.
    Then they came for the journalists, like they are doing to Glenn Greenwald — after his exposure of this sham FISA Secret of the EMPIRE)

    Then they came for me,
    and there was no one left to speak for me."

  8. "that they are endangering the core of the Secrets of an EMPIRE"…….`I.E. It's just a new Murder INC. with a penchant for theft….. $3.2 trillion the day before the kickoff of their big game!! [For Starters]

    Hedges, Greenwald, Scahill, Manning, Hammond `add Vlahos………………

  9. Doubly so, because this 21st century Empire is not just an American Empire (as was wrongly projected by many in the Empire analysis and projection game in the 1990's) it is seriously global (US, UK, Germany, France, Israel, NATO, IMF, et al).

    Today's Empire in the post-nation-state world of the 21st century is the first (and likely last) "truly Global Empire" [Milne, Chomsky, Parenti, Hardt, Negri, Perkins, Milne, Blum, et al].

    So if this one goes with no human and humane attempt at changing course to a soft landing it will very likely go off with a 'hard take-off' (as the AI guys say) and it will be an unguided missile of a rocketing pisser.

  10. The only reason they are calling it metadata is that metadata fits in a loophole on the legal system. The data that is being collected is not metadata at all. it is the call information. it is the standard structured data that telco uses to track calls bill customers, track costs, track how calls are routed through the system.. It should simply be called structured call data. It has all the end points and trunks and branches that a call goes through. This is the information needed to organize unstructured data such as the billions of voice recordings that are pulled off the main exchanges like l3 in Denver. If you know the end points and the durations of calls you can organize the unstructured data that comes off the ATM fiber optic splitters. As well as keep tabs on a hole bunch of other things. This is very private data.

  11. "Obama's so-called 'counter-terrorism' campaign is really a 'counter-revolutionary' campaign against the truth-tellers who are exposing the Global EMPIRE.

  12. So if this one goes with no human and humane attempt at changing course to a soft landing it will very likely go off with a 'hard take-off' (as the AI guys say) and it will be an unguided missile of a rocketing pisser.

  13. The limited aid the US has sent to the Syrian rebels, while totally unacceptable in my opinion, is primarily a pittance for public consumption so that Obama gets to display his disapproval for the Assad regime’s violence.

  14. The limited aid the US has sent to the Syrian rebels, while totally unacceptable in my opinion, is primarily a pittance for public consumption so that Obama gets to display his disapproval for the Assad regimea??s violence.

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