No Warrant, No Problem: How the Government Can Get Your Digital Data – ProPublica

Listening to your phone calls without a judge’s warrant is illegal if you’re a U.S. citizen. But police don’t need a warrant — which requires showing “probable cause” of a crime — to get just the numbers for incoming and outgoing calls from phone carriers. Instead, police can get courts to sign off on a subpoena, which only requires that the data they’re after is relevant to an investigation — a lesser standard of evidence. The FBI can also request a secret court order for phone records related to an international terrorism or spying investigation without showing probable cause. One such order obtained by the Guardian newspaper shows that the FBI requested all phone records over a three-month period last year from Verizon Business Network Services. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said in a statement that such orders are renewed by the court every 90 days. And similar orders reportedly exist for other phone companies, including AT&T, Sprint and Bell South. The phone records being collected are for what’s called “metadata” — time, duration, numbers called — but not the content of calls, which President Obama, in defending the surveillance, said would require a judge’s consent.

via No Warrant, No Problem: How the Government Can Get Your Digital Data – ProPublica.

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