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31 Jul, 2013 03:51

Obama administration to declassify secret Verizon order - report

Obama administration to declassify secret Verizon order - report

Obama administration officials announced that they will declassify an order compelling Verizon to disclose phone records belonging to a massive number of Americans, with the intention of publicizing the document before a Senate hearing early Wednesday.

The sources, speaking to the Washington Post Tuesday on the condition of anonymity, said the secret order was given by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in April 2013. They described the document as the formal order that preceded the Verizon documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in June. The anonymous officials said Snowden’s report was a “secondary order.” 

The declassification is scheduled to come on the same morning of a Senate Judiciary Committee when members of the Justice Department, NSA and from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence are expected to be grilled on the intelligence community’s collection methods and intentions. 

The Verizon order directs the telecommunication giant to turn over fundamental information – including phone numbers dialed, the date and time of the call, and the length of the call – from millions of US citizens.

While White House officials and other top lawmakers have defended the mass collection of data, saying it is necessary in order to effectively protect national security, a senior Obama official told CNN Tuesday that the administration would shed more light on the domestic surveillance. 

The source said the plans are part of a “concerted” and “deliberate” effort to provide additional information about the classified programs at a time when congressional lawmakers are striving to bring an end, or at least provide more oversight, to the agency’s surveillance efforts. The decision to release so-called “white papers” would help explain the scope of the program to Congress and the American public, which the NSA hopes will convince people to support continuing their data collection efforts, the source said. 

The anonymous disclosures revealing the administration’s intentions follow a congressional vote on an amendment that would have effectively eliminated funding for the NSA programs. While the amendment failed, it came up short by a mere 217-205 margin in the House of Representatives, exposing a deep bipartisan rift between party leadership and Democrats and Republicans charged with advocating the wishes of their constituents.