The chairwoman of the US Senate Intelligence committee has said that the state has been collecting the telephone records of millions of US Verizon customers since 2006, and the order is a three-month renewal of a continuing practice.
The collection of records was “on an ongoing daily basis,” beginning on April 25, 2013 and ending July 19, 2013, Dianne Feinstein, a Democratic Senator from California confirmed to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday. However, the practice may have been habitual for seven years prior to its exposure.
“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 [foreign intelligence surveillance] court under the business records section of the Patriot Act. Therefore, it is lawful. It has been briefed to Congress,” she told reporters.
Congress members were fully briefed and aware of the US’s intelligence gathering program, which included the collection of telephone records from Verizon, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed to Reuters on Thursday.
The top secret order required Verizon, one of the largest telecom agencies in the US, to provide both the FBI and the NSA information on all telephone calls made through its systems, both domestically and to foreign countries. A copy was obtained by the Guardian and published on Wednesday.
According to a copy of the order, Verizon is required to disclose the numbers of both parties during a call, as well as location, call duration, and other unique data on an “ongoing, daily basis.” Meaning that, regardless of whether an individual is suspected of or linked to any crime, the data of all Verizon customers is currently being delivered in bulk to the intelligence agency.
Verizon did not confirm the existence of the top secret order. In a memo sent to employees on Thursday, they stated that they were forbidden “from revealing the order’s existence.”