Guess which Judge signed the FISA Order Requiring Verizon to hand over call data

June 5th, 2013

I’ll give you a hint. In 2010, he ruled that Obamacare was unconstitutional. Yikes.

The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compels Verizon to produce to the NSA electronic copies of “all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls”.

This report from the Guardian is huge.

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largesttelecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, 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 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 secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the 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.

I have no idea how a Secret FISA order was leaked. This is a serious, serious breach.

Update: Of course, a glowing profile from The New Republic of Judge Vinson.

Vinson—to some, a “Tea Party judge”—is a Reagan appointee and former Navy lieutenant who briefly came into the media consciousness in 2011 when he struck down Obamacare in its entirety from his seat in Florida. His much-touted Obamacare ruling was basically meaningless, with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) being weighed by the Supreme Court, but still caused a stir because of its sweeping rejection of the new law—Medicare discounts and all. (This was in the days when severability—the legally sound argument that portions of the law should still stand even if the mandate were struck down—was still a hot topic). In his opinion, Vinson also lifted language straight from a Family Research Council primer on the ACA, to explain why the government had no right to penalize inaction. He was also the source of the infamous broccoli meme—“If they decided that everybody needs to eat broccoli because broccoli is healthy they could mandate that everybody has to buy a certain amount of broccoli each week”—which followed Obamacare all the way up to the Supreme Court.

He may have popularized the broccoli meme, but didn’t create it.

Amazingly, not a single mention that the order was authorized by the director of the FBI, who last time I checked, works for President Obama.