Today members of the Obama administration and lawmakers defended the secret National Security Agency’s collection of phone records of millions of Verizon customers in the U.S. According to the Washington Post article by Ellen Nakashima and Ed O’Keefe, “The program apparently has collected the telephone records of tens of millions of American customers of Verizon, one of the nation’s largest phone companies, under a top-secret court order.” The Guardian revealed this information on Wednesday. The Department of Justice is now considering launching an investigation to learn where the leak came from.
All this sounds very alarming and raises several questions:
- Why does the government need this information?
- What happens to the records?
- Is it legal?
- Who approved it?
Many people are weighing in including Senator Diane Feinstein. A CNN article quotes her as saying, “As far as I know, this is the exact three-month renewal of what has been the case for the past seven years. This renewal is carried out by the FISA court under the business records section of the Patriot Act. Therefore it is lawful. It has been briefed to Congress.” Many disagree with this defense, however. Even former Vice President Al Gore tweeted, “In a digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?”
Critical thinkers must ask all these questions and demand answers.