The Obama administration has declassified the secret “primary order” it has used to direct Verizon to for over large quantities of Americans’ phone metadata.
Ahead of a Senate hearing Wednesday morning on National Security Agency oversight, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the orders on the bulk collection program under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. DNI James Clapper said they were released because they were in the public interest.
This order was the subject of The Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald’s first report off leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, which have prompted a furious debate over the NSA’s surveillance powers. The order was issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in April.
The phone records collected include basic information — or “metadata” — on the calls of millions of Americans, which includes things like phone numbers called and the time and length of calls. The Obama administration and some members of Congress have defended the practice as vital for national security.
Large chunks of the order still remain unclassified, blacked out with bars. Before today, the order was expected to be declassified in April 2038.
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