Earlier this year, Luke Murry, national security adviser for Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, revealed that the National Security Agency had been averse over the last six months to using the phone surveillance program that hoovers information from millions of US phone calls and text messages. This was hardly a comforting point; the issue spoke as much to competence as it did to any broader issue of warrantless surveillance of the good people in Freedom’s land. Vast, cumbersome, and generally self-defeating, the essence of such programs is paranoid inefficiency. Put it down to “technical issues”, suggested Murry.
The Call Details Records (CDR) program, hostile to liberties in its warrantless nature, has been a fixture of the US security landscape since 2001, when that nasty piece of legislation known as the USA PATRIOT ACT found its way onto the statue books. The program was given legal approval by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court pursuant to Section 215 of that dastardly piece of penmanship.
The extent of its operation was unveiled in dramatic fashion by Edward Snowden to media outlets in 2013, the surveillance system specific to gathering the metadata of domestic phone calls, a mosaic of caller, recipient and time of contact, has been the subject of scrutiny. There are numerous others, but this one came in for special attention.
As Elliot Harmer of the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains, “While these records don’t contain the actual contents of telephone calls, they do include phone numbers and call times and length – more than enough information to prove the NSA with a clear picture of our social relationships, interests and affiliations.”
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