The government has secretly amassed an enormous database of telephone call records. Here are the answers to some questions about the program:
Q: What information does the government have?
A: It has collected the equivalent of phone logs showing basic information on hundreds of millions of calls, including which number the call originated from, what number was dialed, when the call took place, how long it lasted, how it was routed and any telephone calling cards that may have been used. The collection covers all calls made within the U.S. as well as all calls into the U.S. from overseas.
Q: Does the information include the content of a call?
A. No. These are not wiretaps.
Q: How long has the government collected these data?
A. At least since 2006, on a continual basis, according to Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, respectively.
Q: How did this program become public?
A. The Guardian newspaper in Britain on Wednesday published a copy of a court order, issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which directed Verizon Business Network Services, the division of Verizon that primarily handles corporate telephone networks, to provide the government with phone records for three months, ending July 19. Feinstein, Chambliss and other senators confirmed on Thursday that the order was part of a continuing program that had been renewed every three months.