The Fourth Amendment protects the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Based on reports of the number of domestic phone calls being recorded by the National Security Agency, the Obama administration must have probable cause to suspect millions of us of threatening national security.
According to recent news reports (see here and here), documents obtained by former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal that, in a 30-day period earlier this year, the NSA recorded data on 124.8 billion phone calls, about 3 billion of which originated within the United States.
The program, first reported by the Guardian, is appropriately code-named “Boundless Informant,” and it involves the monitoring and recording of phone calls and Internet communication. The Guardian reports that Boundless Informant “allows users to select a country on a map and view the meta data volume and select details about the collections against that country.”
While it is unlikely that the actual conversations themselves were recorded by the NSA, the fact that any information on a phone call was recorded without conforming to the Constitution is alarming. Regardless of the volume of recordings or the amount or type of data stored, a single act of warrantless surveillance violates the Constitution and everyone who ordered or participated in the program should be held accountable.
Of course, Boundless Informant isn’t the only such unconstitutional program being carried out by the snoops.
Among the most disturbing disclosures found within the reams of Edward Snowden’s revelations was the surrender by major telecommunications companies of the otherwise private phone records of millions of Americans — none of whom was, as required by the Constitution, suspected of committing any sort of crime.
According to a court order labeled “TOP SECRET,” federal judge Roger Vinson ordered Verizon to turn over the phone records of millions of its U.S. customers to the NSA.
The order, issued in April by the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and leaked on the Internet by the Guardian, compels Verizon to provide these records on an “ongoing daily basis” and to hand over to the domestic spy agency “an electronic copy” of “all call detail records created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”
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