Whistleblower’s NSA warning: ‘Just the tip of the iceberg’

Washington Times –

The National Security Agency’s collection of phone data from all of Verizon’s U.S. customers is just the “tip of the iceberg,” says a former NSA official who estimates the agency has data on as many as 20 trillion phone calls and emails by U.S. citizens.

William Binney, an award-winning mathematician and noted NSA whistleblower, says the collection dates back to when the super-secret agency began domestic surveillance after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I believe they’ve been collecting data about all domestic calls since October 2001,” said Mr. Binney, who worked at NSA for more than 30 years. “That’s more than a billion calls a day.”

He called his figures “back of the envelope” estimates, adding that they include emails as well as telephone calls.

Mr. Binney, who left the agency in October 2001, said the data were collected under a highly classified NSA program code-named “Stellar Wind,” which was part of the warrantless domestic wiretapping effort — the Terrorist Surveillance Program — launched on orders from President George W. Bush.

The Terrorist Surveillance Program was revealed by The New York Times in 2005, but officials said it only monitored calls between Americans and suspected terrorists abroad. The Bush administration said it based the program’s legal authority on the president’s powers as commander-in-chief.

Congress subsequently amended the law governing wiretapping by spy agencies — the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) — to provide legislative authority for the program and require supervision by the special secret court the 1978 act established.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper posted online late Wednesday a copy of the “Top Secret” FISA court order directing telecommunications giant Verizon to hand over “metadata” about every call made or received by all of its customers in the United States. Such metadata include the calling and receiving phone numbers, the time of day and length of the call, and the whereabouts of the two parties.

Mr. Binney noted the order’s serial number, which indicates it is the 80th issued by the FISA court so far this year. The court likely has approved similar orders for the other major U.S. telecom providers, he said, “and they have to be renewed every 90 days.”

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