London/Washington: The Obama administration has obtained telephone records of millions of Americans in bulk on an ‘ongoing daily basis’ from Verizon, a leading British newspaper reported on Thursday, provoking angry reactions from rights groups over government's domestic spying powers.
     
"The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April," the newspaper reported.
     
The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the paper, requires Verizon on an ‘ongoing, daily basis’ to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries, the report said.
      
The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the Obama administration unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19, the report said.
      
Under the terms of the four-page blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.
      
The disclosure is likely to reignite longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government's domestic spying powers.
      
A news channel reported that Verizon spokesman Edward McFadden declined to comment on the report. The FBI did not respond to the request for comment. The NSA told the news channel said it will respond ‘as soon as we can.’
      
The order does not say why the request was made, but it bans the government and Verizon from making the contents public.
      
"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 US," the Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement released shortly after the story broke.
      
"It also contains a gag order prohibiting Verizon from disclosing information about the order to anyone other than their counsel," the statement reads.

(Agencies)  

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