It is being reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone records of Verizon customers in the U.S. The top secret court order was issued in April and "requires Verizon on an 'ongoing, daily basis' to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries." The order allows the U.S. government "unlimited authority" in acquiring data for a three-month period, which will end on July 19.

Translation: President Obama's administration has been spying on Verizon subscribers for two months. 

If this sounds like something out of a George Orwell novel, that's because it is. 

"The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual. [FISA] court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target who is suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets," Glenn Greenwald reports. "While the order itself does not include either the contents of messages or the personal information of the subscriber of any particular cell number, its collection would allow the NSA to build easily a comprehensive picture of who any individual contacted, how and when, and possibly from where, retrospectively."

Worst of all: "It is not known whether Verizon is the only cell-phone provider to be targeted with such an order, although previous reporting has suggested the NSA has collected cell records from all major mobile networks. It is also unclear from the leaked document whether the three-month order was a one-off, or the latest in a series of similar orders."

And as Joshua Foust points out, Congress may catch some backlash as well. "Congress voted to legalize expansive surveillance powers in 2001 (The USA PATRIOT ACT), 2008 (retroactive immunity for warantless NSA wiretaps in the FISA Amendments Act), and in 2012 (renewing the FISA Amendments Act)."

The White House, NSA and Verizon have all declined to comment thus far. 

Read the court order in full here.

More on this as it develops.

[via The Guardian]