WASHINGTON, Jun 6 – US intelligence agency collection of people’s telephone records is a critical tool to fight terrorism, the White House said on Thursday in response to news reports of wide scale monitoring of this type.
A senior official in the administration of President Barack Obama did not explicitly confirm a reported court order allowing the practice, but seemed to acknowledge such monitoring is in fact going on.
The Guardian newspaper in London reported that mobile carrier Verizon is required to provide the National Security Agency daily with information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the United States and between the US and other countries.
The Guardian cited a top-secret court order issued in April, and said it had obtained a copy, which it reproduced online.
“The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing,” the Guardian report said.
The Washington Post quoted two former US officials as saying the order as reproduced by the Guardian looks authentic.
The Obama administration official, while apparently avoiding confirming specifically that such activity is going on, said information of the sort described in the article is a “critical tool” to protect America from terrorist threats.
The official said such information “allows counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States.”