VERIZON REPRESENTATIVES have no comment. AT&T reps are mute. Ditto spokespersons for Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile, who either refused comment or to return calls from Reuters.
Wednesday wasn’t the first time we’ve heard that the U.S. government is collecting data on every single phone line within the U.S. But Glenn Greenwald’s leak of a secret order requiring Verizon to provide the National Security Agency “all call data” has finally provoked response from the White House.
A day after the Guardian columnist published a “top secret” court order confirming what others have reported for years, an anonymous “senior” Obama official claimed the massive information collection has been a “critical tool” in protecting Americans from terrorists.
“”Information of the sort described in the Guardian article has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States,” the source said, “as it allows counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also leaped to Obama’s defense, calling the practice “lawful” under the Patriot Act and dismissing the accrued information as “just metadata. There is no content involved. In other words, no content of a communication.”
Greenwald’s revelation may be the tipping point at which Americans finally become cognizant of the extent to which they are under perpetual surveillance. But the Electronic Freedom Foundation has kept an evidentiary trail of the U.S. government’s collection of U.S. citizens’ phone, computer and email data going as far back as 2000.
A recent video by Journeyman Pictures published on Boing Boing gives glimpse into how metadata is used to detect minute variations in behavior to discern criminal or suspicious activity. The documentary quotes Professor James Orwell of Kingston University explaining how “smart cameras” can collect data over long periods of time that is then used to detect “criminal activity even before a crime.”
But the video also touches on the use of drones and computer hacking to follow targeted individuals And it introduces us to two individuals whose reputations were permanently destroyed when they inadvertently deviate from the metadata “norm.” Filmmakers also talk to William Binney, a former NSA official who quit when the government began spying on U.S. citizens after 9/11.
“I mean there is virtually nothing in the network that they can’t have a copy of. If they start targeting you, so what? They already have the data. I can’t found out what they’re doing with my data, but I know they have it. So I make sure I write in there whatever I have to say about them, I say that in there. So when they collect it they know what I’m thinking of them.”
The video is nearly 33 minutes long but it’ll school you on how invasive technology is being used to police.