The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.
"It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders, this person added.
For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.
The NSA's domestic program, as described by sources, is far more expansive than what the White House has acknowledged. Last year, Bush said he had authorized the NSA to eavesdrop — without warrants — on international calls and international e-mails of people suspected of having links to terrorists when one party to the communication is in the USA. Warrants have also not been used in the NSA's efforts to create a national call database.
Remember, AT&T now owns SBC (and, I believe, Cingular), so if you use any of those-- or Verizon or BellSouth-- the government now has a list of every call you've made since they started this program. The other important thing to note is that these companies volunteered the information; the NSA didn't subpoena your call records, and these companies could've turned them down.
In fact, one company did just that (turned the NSA down, that is): Qwest. If they operate where you live, I would strongly suggest switching your service to them. John Aravosis also suggests encrypting your emails from now on, and provides links to show you how.