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Surveillance Scandal Infuriates Americans

Published: 08/06/2013 12:18:15 PM GMT
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WASHINGTON - Privacy advocates have expressed anger over new revelations that US security agencies have been tapped directly into the servers of the nation's top Internet providers and have been collecting the phone records o (more)

WASHINGTON - Privacy advocates have expressed anger over new revelations that US security agencies have been tapped directly into the servers of the nation's top Internet providers and have been collecting the phone records of millions in the US on an "ongoing, daily basis."

“Recent reports of the FBI and the National Security Agency (NSA) unconstitutionality spying on millions of American phone calls, emails, and other internet communications is unacceptable and counter to core-American values,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a statement obtained by

“CAIR and other civil liberties organizations strongly suspect that the federal government is also collecting call data from all other major phone carriers.”

America Under Surveillance

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The civil liberties group statement came as a direct response to revelations that the US government has been gathering phone and internet data of millions of American citizens.

Angry reactions started when UK's Guardian newspaper reported a secret court had ordered phone company Verizon to hand over to the NSA millions of records on telephone call "metadata".

That report was followed by revelations in both the Washington Post and Guardian that the NSA tapped directly into the servers of nine internet firms including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to track online communication in a program known as Prism.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, said the press reports were "outrageous" and denied Facebook's participation in the program.

"We have never received a blanket request or court order from any government agency asking for information or metadata in bulk, like the one Verizon reportedly received,” he said in a statement published on his Facebook page.

"And if we did, we would fight it aggressively. We hadn't even heard of Prism before yesterday."

Another statement by Google reflected mounting criticism over revelations of data gathering on a vast scale.

“Press reports that suggest that Google is providing open-ended access to our users' data are false, period,” Larry Page, Google's chief executive, and David Drummond, chief legal officer, wrote in a blogpost on Friday afternoon.

Each of the nine websites named in the leaked slides have denied providing such “direct” access to their systems and servers but the US government has acknowledged the existence of Prism, which Washington officials said targeted only suspects outside the US.

Washington Earthquake

Confirmed by US officials, the revelations roiled Washington DC, with privacy advocates criticizing the surveillance as an unlawful intrusion.

"When law-abiding Americans make phone calls, who they call, when they call and where they call from is private information," Democratic Senator Ron Wyden was quoted by the BBC on Saturday, June 8.

"As a result of the disclosures that came to light today, now we're going to have a real debate in the Congress and the country and that's long overdue."

Trying to bring calm to Washington, Barack Obama has defended the US government's eavesdropping operations put in place in the years since the 9/11.

“No one is listening to your phone calls,” Obama insisted, taking a break from his planned schedule while visiting California to address the fast-growing controversy.

“The people who are involved in America's national security, they take this work very seriously; they cherish our constitution.”

Senator Rand Paul, a hero of the Tea Party and the Republican Party, called the accessing of Verizon telephone data “an astounding assault on the Constitution”, and vowed to table legislation to rein in the NSA.

"The revelation that the NSA has secretly seized the call records of millions of Americans, without probable cause, represents an outrageous abuse of power and a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution," Paul said.

"The bill restores our Constitutional rights and declares that the Fourth Amendment shall not be construed to allow any agency of the United States government to search the phone records of Americans without a warrant based on probable cause."

These classified domestic spying programs have been operational for years under both the Obama and Bush administrations.

In February 2008, CAIR opposed the expansion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act because it gave immunity to telecom companies that may have unlawfully aided the administration's bypassing of FISA court orders.

In 2011, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, warned that "when the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry."

In 2012, the NSA refused tell Senators Mark Udall (D-CO) and Wyden how many Americans phone calls, text messages, and emails were being spied without probable cause under the broad powers granted in the 2008 expansion of FISA.

Reproduced with permission from