The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Breaking News: FISA Court Ordering Verizon to Turn Over Records of All Calls

Center for Constitutional Rights Reacts


Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) released the following statement in response to breaking news first published in The Guardian showing a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court order requiring Verizon to turn over phone records of all telephone calls from the U.S. to abroad, and within the United States, including local calls, between now and July 19, 2013.

As far as we know this order from the FISA court is the broadest surveillance order to ever have been issued: it requires no level of suspicion and applies to all Verizon subscribers anywhere in the U.S. It also contains a gag order prohibiting Verizon from disclosing information about the order to anyone other than their counsel.

The Patriot Act's incredibly broad surveillance provision purportedly authorizes an order of this sort, though its constitutionality is in question and several senators have complained about it.

The Patriot Act provision requires the FBI to notify Congress about the number of such warrants, but this single order covering millions of people is a deceptive end-run around that disclosure requirement.

The presumed incoming FBI director, James Comey, will be the one in charge of and responsible for deciding whether to seek renewals of this order and any future orders like it, which is interesting in light of his complicated history with NSA surveillance. It certainly suggests some questions he should answer in his confirmation hearings.

We will continue to challenge the surveillance of Americans in our case currently pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Center for Constitutional Rights v. Obama.

The case, initially filed as Center for Constitutional Rights v. Bush, sought an injunction ordering the government to end the National Security Association's warrantless wiretapping program. When, in response, the government claimed it had shut down the program in January 2007, CCR challenged the new statute, the Protect America Act, under which President Bush sought to carry out similar programs of surveillance without individualized suspicion. The current claims in the case ask the court to order the government to destroy any records of surveillance that it still retains from the illegal NSA program.

The Ninth Circuit had originally scheduled oral argument in Center for Constitutional Rights v. Obama for June 1, 2012, but when the Supreme Court agreed last May to hear today's case, Clapper v Amnesty intl, brought by the ACLU, the judges postponed argument in CCR's case until the Clapper decision. Supplemental briefs in light of the Supreme Court's decision have been submitted.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CCR is committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

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