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-- because in new bombshell that could be devastating for the Obama administration has also surfaced this morning.
The White House today is on defense following the report that the National Security Agency is collecting a massive.
Of phone records in the tens of millions.
Of ordinary Americans watching the number that's calling out to the number that's calling it on your phone records.
The White House says it's such information is quote a critical tool.
In protecting the nation from terrorist threats.
But while defending the practice they would not confirm if the NSA had asked Verizon which is the phone company in question here.
To hand over all of their customer information the four page court order reportedly -- requested details on calls including how long they war.
When and where those calls were made it to and from all of this on a daily basis that's -- a lot of information chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge.
Live in Washington on this have -- What does that court ordered tell us is happening here.
Well Martha this court order first obtained by the guardian a British newspaper.
Shows that the FBI which is under the authority of Eric holder's Justice Department was given sweeping authority to collect the phone records from Verizon.
Of all Americans inside the US who used the service over three month period beginning in mid April.
The word order reads in part quote all -- -- records or telephone me meta data.
Created by Verizon for communications one between the United States and abroad.
Or two wholly within the United States including local telephone calls.
The court order allows for the collection of this so called meta data.
This is the phone logs the -- -- the calls even the geographic location of the -- can be tracked through the cell -- transmitter towers.
And critics say when this information is analyzed it's actually far more intrusive than listening in on the contents of the calls themselves.
Because this meta data tracks your personal social network in this country.
The Democrats in the senate were already sending the alarm even before the order became public.
Does the NSA collecting any type of data at all -- millions or hundreds of millions of Americans are.
-- -- It does not.
There are cases where they could in inadvertently.
Collect but not not -- -- The reason Fox News investigation pushed the head of the National Security Agency also known as the NSA.
To explain whether the agency would hold the records of American citizens.
And that idea was dismissed at the time as completely inconsistent with the NSA's mandate.
Think we don't hold data on US citizens let me go back to the mission did NSA does.
With a focus on counterterrorism that's.
Our mission is protect this country from things like 9/11.
-- and had no comment for Fox News this morning and -- in the process of trying to determine whether other US phone carriers.
Are subject to a similar order to play is something in and looking at those quotes that you just had us watch Katherine.
Those people are gonna have some questions to answer.
About all of that do we know.
What the nature of this search was we have any information on that and what what has the reaction been to mess.
Well I would I draw attention to the timing the order came about a week after the Boston Marathon bombing and were trying to determine.
If there was any kind of connection that is unknown at this time that the timing does seem.
This morning that there is universal condemnation of the move from civil liberties groups.
Who are calling it a violation of the first and fourth amendments the ACLU issuing a statement that reads in part quote.
It is beyond orwellian and it provides further evidence of the extent to which basic democratic rights.
Are being surrendered in the secret to that in secret pardon me to the demands of unaccountable intelligence agencies.
Even former vice president Al Gore tweeted this morning.
In the digital era privacy must be a priority is it just me.
Or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous.
This morning a leading Republican told fox that he plainly wants more information before casting judgment on the program.
I don't mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government is gonna make sure that they try to match up.
A known -- -- Phone with with somebody in the United States that I don't think you're talking to terrorists I know you're not I'm -- I know I'm not -- or anything to worry about.
As you mentioned the attorney general is on the hill within the hour on a separate subject but he is likely to take questions.
On this investigation.
-- an opportunity to see where some of this data is collected.
This is part of a special for Fox News reporting your secrets out there was just broadcast within the last couple of months we went to you talk.
Andy you -- data center this is like a giant thumb drive storage facility.
For the NSA in the high desert we were not allowed access to speak to anyone there so we hired a helicopter.
To give -- bird's eye view and this is a man that facility the published reports indicate that it can hold five.
Zeta bytes of data just one -- -- Is the equivalent to the data that can be held in 62.
IPhone 5 -- critics say this ability to store data.
Really creates a situation with one step that you can have what people have ultimately called.
The surveillance state here in this country -- a -- better question is this morning Kathleen thank you.
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