The Obama administration is secretly carrying out what possibly could be the largest domestic spying program in history, The New York Times reported last night.
A secret court order directs at least one communications company to turn over “on an ongoing daily basis” to the National Security Agency all call logs “between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”
The disclosure late Wednesday seemed likely to inspire further controversy over the scope of government surveillance.
In what is likely to be the most cited quote of the day, Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies, a civil liberties advocacy group, said that “absent some explanation I haven’t thought of, this looks like the largest assault on privacy since the N.S.A. wiretapped Americans in clear violation of the law” under the Bush administration.
“On what possible basis has the government refused to tell us that it believes that the law authorizes this kind of request?” she said.
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The paper quoted two Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, have been cryptically warning that the government was interpreting its surveillance powers under that section of the Patriot Act in a way that would be alarming to the public if it knew about it.
“We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted Section 215 of the Patriot Act,” they wrote last year in a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. They added: “As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows.”