If you’re a reporter or cop with a Verizon phone, the government now has all your sources

Fox News is simply beside itself with ire over the news last night that the Obama administration forced Verizon to turn over the phone records of all of its 121 million customers to the National Security Agency.

But the ire should extend far beyond partisan news outlets.  Reporters, police, and regular Americans should all be concerned.

Let’s start with Fox. You likely won’t be surprised to hear that while Fox is very upset over Obama’s domestic eavesdropping, they were fine with George Bush’s. Which is interesting, since President Obama at least got a court order to do what he did. Bush skipped the court order all together.  But that didn’t stop Fox from geting all verklempt.

You see, Fox News is worried that this is an “abuse of the Patriot Act.”

How adorable.

Fox News finally cares about the Patriot Act, and civil liberties.


I’ve always said that the only time conservatives would ever start caring about civil liberties was when someone started going after them, preferably targeting gun nuts (and keep in mind, all you gun nuts on Verizon, the government now has your records too – hee hee).

Reporters and cops who use Verizon, beware

But it goes beyond that.  The government now has a list of the sources for every journalist in America who uses Verizon.  Are you a politician who chats with reporters and would rather not have that known publicly? Are you a reporter who might be concerned that the government will now use this data to further its leak investigation against you and your sources?

The government also has the list of the confidential sources for every cop in America who uses Verizon.

And a record of anyone who’s used their Verizon phone to call a hooker, or the NRA.

Lindsey Graham’s bizarre “I’m not a terrorist” defense

It’s easy for people like Lindsey Graham to say:

“I’m a Verizon customer,” Graham revealed. “I don’t mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government’s going to make sure that they try to match up a known terrorist phone with somebody in the United States. I don’t think you’re talking to terrorists. I know you’re not. I know I’m not. So, we don’t have anything to worry about.”

domestic privacy eavesdropping spying

Eavesdropping via Shutterstock

But the information being turned over goes far beyond “I’m not a terrorist, so I don’t care.”  As noted above, are you a cop, a journalist, a man cheating on your wife?  How about a closeted Republican senator who uses his Verizon phone to call gay phone sex lines?  Do you think the government having that information in its hands might be a problem for you?

This is not a “limited” inquiry

And there’s another thing.  Graham goes on to say, and this is a total lie:

“I’m glad the activity is going on, but it is limited to tracking people who are suspected to be terrorists and who they may be talking to.”

Well, no.  They’re tracking all 121 million Verizon customers.  So that’s a flat out lie.   Even the Fox Host was taken aback by Graham’s obviously false assertion that this court order only applies to a few suspected terrorists:

“Are you sure?” co-host Brian Kilmeade wondered. “That’s what it’s supposed to be, but are you sure they’re still doing that?”

When people like Lindsey Graham, who are lawyers and know better, trot out the “it’s okay if you spy on me because I’m not talking to terrorists” line, it’s particularly insulting.  They know better than that.  The Constitution and the Bill of Rights aren’t based on the notion that anything goes so long as you’re not guilty.

Lots of things in life are private, even if they’re not against the law, Senator Graham.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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61 Responses to “If you’re a reporter or cop with a Verizon phone, the government now has all your sources”

  1. Zorba says:

    They need to come out of the urban areas and go to a 7-11 in more rural areas. Although, I suppose the same thing will apply here, eventually.
    I really hate the ever-expanding erosion of our civil liberties.

  2. ezpz says:

    Yes. Diane Feinstein (D), whose reaction to this is as disgusting as that of any R, was not included in this piece.

  3. ezpz says:

    Legal challenges have indeed been filed. The problem is that they lost.
    Plus, we have a complicit press who doesn’t even report on any such legal challenge.

    Jonathan Turley:

    In February, the Administration succeeded in blocking a challenge to its surveillance policies by arguing that any confirmation of such programs would put American lives at risk. Now that the case is dismissed, they have simply acknowledged the program. The decision is Clapper v. Amnesty International, No. 11-1025, and it is a true nightmare for civil liberties. The Supreme Court rejected the standing of civil liberties groups and citizens to challenge the Obama Administration’s surveillance programs. President Obama has long been criticized for his opposition to such lawsuits and his Justice Department has continued a successful attack on the ability of citizens to challenge the unconstitutional actions of their government in the war on terror. The 5-4 opinion by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. insulates such programs from judicial review in yet another narrowing of standing rules.


  4. BeccaM says:

    If you’ve watched The Wire, you’ll probably realize that quickly became the go-to strategy for drug dealers in many urban environments.

    However, realizing this is a problem, many locales enacted laws making it illegal to buy burners with cash and without a valid ID.

    In other words, the governments know where the loopholes already are and are trying to plug them.

  5. Houndentenor says:

    It’s as if no one ever saw All the President’s Men.

  6. Avery says:

    Is this post from the way-back machine, circa 2006? That’s at least how long this has been going on. The Gov’t doesn’t have this info just “now”, they’ve had it for a long time …

  7. Zorba says:

    Well, if they are really worried abut it, they can buy a cheap, pre-paid phone, pay cash for it, and dump it and replace it frequently.

  8. Roman Berry says:

    Not just Verizon. Verizon was just the order that leaked. As ought to be clear by now after the spate of news yesterday and last night, it’s everything. Every phone, email, internet browsing session, file, location….everything. This is what Udall and Wyden have been talking about. Don’t constrain your mind such that you think there are limits, because there aren’t.

  9. BeccaM says:

    Have you tried to find a pay-phone lately?

  10. BeccaM says:

    That’s why I’d rather have the collaborative efforts of us acting together on stuff like this.

    I almost wonder if the “it’s just limited to business accounts” original story wasn’t a red herring at this point.

  11. ezpz says:

    LOL! A hoot fur sher!

  12. ezpz says:

    But Lindsey Graham says he doesn’t care if Verizon has his number, so to speak.

  13. ezpz says:

    Oh yes!

  14. ezpz says:

    No, it’s not just the Business Services.

    I’m assuming you read the Glenn Greenwald’s piece in the Guardian.

    Here’s more from Jonathan Turley, who is a real constitutional law professor/scholar/attorney::

    The Guardian is reporting on a massive surveillance program by the Obama Administration where the government has ordered Verizon (and presumably other carriers) to turn over all calls made within the United States and calls between the United States and other countries.

    The order signed by Judge Roger Vinson requires the company to turn over the phone numbers, location, duration, time and unique identifiers for all calls for all citizens. There is no effort to confine the search for individuals connected to any investigation. It is a sweeping surveillance on all citizens.


  15. ezpz says:

    I think AT&T has long been in the loop….Room 641A…


  16. okojo says:

    A big problem with the Patriot Act was that it was a grab bag of many civil rights violations that the FBI and other Federal Government Law Enforcement had during the Cold War. In many ways it is an anachronism to be used to fight how something like 9/11 happened with $500k and a couple flight school courses. Ditto with the Boston Bombings, in which it took a couple things from Bed, Bath and Beyond, the Home Depot and $200 in fireworks.

  17. karmanot says:

    “he’s suddenly shy.” But, gradually bought I think.

  18. karmanot says:

    I’ve been calling out Feinstein for years to deaf ears. She has always consistently upheld and encouraged the emergence of a police super state.

  19. karmanot says:

    “before I can start blaming Democrats?” The sooner the better.Some of us have been on board that train since the end of Obozo’s first term.

  20. Drew2u says:

    So with the news that google, apple, and facebook have all of their information being fed to the federal data mining invasion, what if, say, a million people each, on 7 random days of the year (per individual) flooded their account or conversations with the words Al Queda, terrorist, Alhuwa Akhbar, Osama, etc for that day?
    Gotta give those underpaid interns something to do!

  21. ezpz says:

    “…When, if ever, does it become self defeating to continue playing the our side/their side game, where the division is political party (D vs. R) instead of political ideology (lib. vs. cons.)?”

    That ship has sailed. Except in name and some occasional populist sounding, albeit duplicitous rhetoric, there is really no difference except that the dems are more stealth and get us when our backs are turned and our guard is down because O just gave an awe inspiring speech or something, whereas the repubs, well, we know what they’re about.

  22. Cletus says:

    Insider trading? Those BASTARDS!

  23. Houndentenor says:

    We should file a class action suit against Verizon. They shouldn’t have given up those records without a warrant. But mostly the law needs to be changed.

  24. Houndentenor says:

    If everyone who claims to be outraged is really that outraged, they could change the law. You know, the one Congress passed and reauthorized. We can change that. If anyone is serious about that and not just eager for something to scream about.

  25. Houndentenor says:

    Where have people been for the last 12 years. the Patriot Act was passed in 2001 and reauthorized in 2006. there was very little opposition from either party and almost none from Republicans. Now suddenly they are realizing that the whole time (consistently and without pause) that administrations were using the tools Congress gave them? Really? Is everyone in the media really this stupid? I find little evidence that anyone who reports for any of the networks (broadcast or cable) has the tiniest bit of common sense. Wake up. This was going on the whole time.

  26. Houndentenor says:

    Okay wait. A confidential informant or whistle blower uses their own phone to call a reporter? Really? Are people this dumb?

  27. nicho says:

    Oh no. You think this is about gathering evidence to use in court? You need to get out more. They have hundreds of uses for this that have nothing to do with admissible evidence.

  28. Ford Prefect says:

    Yes, but what’s allowed is changing. The Supremes have already bent over backwards to make illegal searches allowable. They can take DNA of people they arrest or detain. Besides that, there are those secret interpretations and it rather seems like those make pretty much anything allowable.

  29. Tania Nicole Schwarting says:

    how long before the eroinus decsion to hold the government accountable for illegal acts is going to take place and now fox news is for patriotism warn the norm the storm is coming

  30. Cletus says:

    Happy Birthday Nicho! And they’ll get it to stand up in court how?

  31. BeccaM says:

    Not to excuse this at all — and I don’t — but MyrddinWilt was correct in the other post’s comment thread: This specific order does not cover all 121 million Verizon wireless customers. Saying it does is misleading and appears not to be correct.

    It is, however, a blanket grant of all call metadata for its business-provider subsidiary, Verizon Business Network Services.

    Verizon Business Network Services is one of the nation’s largest telecommunications and Internet providers for corporations. It is not clear whether similar orders have gone to other parts of Verizon, like its residential or cellphone services, or to other telecommunications carriers. The order prohibits its recipient from discussing its existence, and representatives of both Verizon and AT&T declined to comment Wednesday evening.


    The NY Times article even says it’s “business calls” being targeted in this NatSec hoovering operation.

    Nevertheless, I don’t have the proof of it, but I would suppose that if a reporter had an employer-issued cell phone on the Verizon network, that phone could very well be included.

    I’d actually almost rather this be “everyone” because just maybe enough of us would be offended to demand this unconstitutional activity be stopped and those responsible prosecuted.

  32. jared says:

    I think the one thing FOX has always had is religion, but that’s a separate point. There is so much inconsistency in policy execution on both sides that I no longer consider Democrat synonymous with liberal and Republican synonymous with conservative. For me I guess it comes down to the fact that I fell out of love with the democrats and am as happy placing blame on Democrats as I am placing blame on Republicans on a case by case basis.

  33. Naja pallida says:

    Oh, the Democrats are just as much to blame. They voted for it, and have supported the Patriot Act, as well as many other questionable policies after 9/11. There is a reason why Pelosi has had absolutely no investigations or hearings on lying us into war, or warrantless wiretapping… because they were complicit, and would have to admit their own culpability before they could ever see justice done. Republicans are just hypocrites, which makes them an easy target. They love authoritarian policies, as long as they get to be the ones doing it. Really, the “scandal” here is entirely contrived. They’ve ALL been in on it from the beginning. While Democrats play the game of ‘cover your ass’, Republicans are just trying to exploit people’s ignorance for political gain, as usual.

  34. nicho says:

    To say the other side is bad, you don’t have to say that your side is good. A pox on both their houses. But pointing out that Fox is beyond hypocritical on this and other issues is a valid point.

  35. jared says:

    To clarify the above question, let me phrase it another way. When, if ever, does it become self defeating to continue playing the our side/their side game, where the division is political party (D vs. R) instead of political ideology (lib. vs. cons.)?

  36. nicho says:

    Nothing “falls solely in Obama’s court.” All of these atrocities were encoded in the Patriot Act which Bush and the PNAC crowd had written and on the shelf long before 9-11. The attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon, provided the “Pearl Harbor type event” the PNACers were wishing for. The act was rammed through the Congress by the Bush Administration. Members weren’t even allowed to read it for fear of being called pro-terrorist by the Bush Gang and Fox News. Obama isn’t blameless, but Fox News was MIA when Bush was shredding the Constitution. All of a sudden they’ve got religion.

  37. jared says:

    Thank you for responding. I was furious with the Republicans and GWB during the Bush Administration over the Patriot Act, and I’m furious with the Obama now. I guess the part I don’t understand is that the tone of this post, and many others, is to consistently redirect blame onto the GOP. You can call Obama a Republican-wannabe, but the truth is he has a D after his name. How long does this have to go on (in time or in policy) before I can start blaming Democrats?

  38. nicho says:

    Oh, puleeeze! I was born at night, but not last night. They will use what they damn well please.

  39. Naja pallida says:

    I didn’t always agree with him on his radio show, but he at least argued for points that made sense. I guess it was just easier to be outspoken when he had a radio show not many people listened to. Now that more people are paying attention, he’s suddenly shy.

  40. Drew2u says:

    How long until the White House investigates and prosecutes this egregious act of… leaking information to the public. Seems to be the WH’s MO, innit?

  41. Naja pallida says:

    It’s a Republican policy, abused first thoroughly under George W. Bush with the consent of both parties. Now it has been just recycled by the Republican-wannabe in the White House. The Republicans did everything they could, including mobilizing their propaganda wing, to reassure us that if we’re not doing anything wrong, we have absolutely nothing to fear. The Patriot Act is just to protect us. Then as soon as it’s a Democratic administration abusing it too, they start complaining, and acting all shocked and aghast. Especially considering Senators have already said they’ve been briefed on this program for over seven years now, so why haven’t the Republicans spoken up before now? Then someone comes along and gives them cover by saying “Why are you attacking the Republicans, it’s Obama’s fault!”

  42. JosephP says:

    Al Franken has been useless. What a disappointment. Almost as big a disappointment as Obama.

  43. jared says:

    This post seems to have nothing to do with the title. Probably should have been called “I Will Use This Obama Administration Atrocity To Blast the GOP, FOX & Lindsay Graham.” It might be hard to believe but sometimes it doesn’t have to do with republicans. In my opinion, recently this blog has been bordering on irrationally blaming the GOP for things that fall solely in Obama’s court.

  44. Cletus says:

    But they can’t use any of it beyond the narrow scope of what’s allowed.

  45. karmanot says:

    “Now where is he?” Swimming with the sharks and gorging on chum.

  46. Naja pallida says:

    Not mad enough for my taste.

  47. Naja pallida says:

    No, to them, funding public education or health care is an oppressive government. Spying on people, or jailing political prisoners indefinitely without trial… that’s just fine. If you’re not doing anything wrong, like being socialist, why should you be worried?

  48. Ford Prefect says:

    They’re data mining everyone so they can sift through EVERYONE’S data. That’s the whole point!

  49. Ford Prefect says:

    If only this was limited to cops and reporters. But it’s not. If you buy hair products, for example, you’re tagged as a suspect. That includes most people. We’re all members of a “suspect community” now.

    No mention yet of all the false positives this system creates and all the innocent people who will be harmed in all their desire for complete control.

  50. Ryan says:

    If I were Graham, I would be worried about intelligence being able to dig through my phone records, including that other phone that he thinks no one knows about.

  51. Cletus says:

    As I understand it Graham has it right. They have all the records of all customers, but they can only make use of those which have proven contact with a foreign source known or suspected to be a terrorist group. They are not and could not be sifting through the records of all 121 million customers.

  52. Whitewitch says:

    Franken is still pretty mad about it…I think he feels undoing Citizens United is first. We will have to see.

  53. Whitewitch says:

    “The Constitution and the Bill of Rights aren’t based on the notion that anything goes so long as you’re not guilty,” I like this one – I just bolded the most important word…but are double negatives confusing to the right wing? Maybe that is Lindsey’s problem.

  54. nicho says:

    I wonder if any of them have taken the trouble to read it. They weren’t allowed to before they voted on it. I’m guessing that if you help a pop quiz on the legislation, almost every member of Congress would flunk. Pushing that POS law through was the modern day equivalent of the burning of the Reichstag,

  55. nicho says:

    Between the Patriot Act and Citizens United, the country has pretty much been taken over. the coup is almost complete. I’m still waiting for all the Second Amendment Vigilantes to ride out of the hills and protect us from the rogue government. That is one of the big reasons they have all those guns, isn’t it?

  56. Naja pallida says:

    If I could afford to bring a legal challenge against the Patriot Act, I would… but sadly, I’m not rolling in that kind of money. The people in Congress who should want to fight it have been complicit in its implementation (Feinstein, Pelosi, etc), or want that unchecked power for their future administration (Every Republican). This is going to take the work of a group like the ACLU to step in, and get some serious public support… but already, look how many people we’ve had commenting “Well, I’m not doing anything wrong. Why should I care?”

  57. Indigo says:

    And there it stands. Everybody realizes it’s intrusive, and no serious challenge has emerged. How can that be? And yet it is.

  58. Indigo says:

    This is all part of the Patriot Act package which, to all appearances, empowers the government under whatever cloak to do as it damn well pleases. That either is a problem that has to be fixed or is a social development we have yet to learn to live with. Which one it is hasn’t been decided by the courts yet, possibly because no fundamental challenge has yet emerged. That’s a fresh layer of problem but apparently we’re learning to live within this control structure.

    That Verizon is complicit triggers my concern since I’m currently researching how to change my plan to Verizon. Apparently, I should re-evaluate that thought but I’m wondering whether there is any one of the cell phone services that does not roll over when government agents flash their badges (or whatever it is they flash these days).

  59. Delonjo Barber says:

    “How about a closeted Republican senator who uses his Verizon phone to call gay phone sex lines?”

  60. Naja pallida says:

    Welcome to what many of us have been warning about the Patriot Act for years. All they have to do is throw the word ‘terrorism’ somewhere on the paper work, and they can do whatever the hell they want. And if you think violating your rights by spying on you is the worst offense that could happen with this “law” in effect, you’re sadly naive.

  61. nicho says:

    Wouldn’t it be a hoot if one of Miss Lindsey’s rent boys turned out to be a spy.

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