Over nearly two decades, the NSA has searched millions of Americans’ telephone call records—all without a warrant or, for the vast majority of these calls, any suspicion of wrongdoing. It’s time to end the mass telephone Call Detail Records (CDR) program once and for all. Please join us in urging Congress to support the Ending Mass Collection of Americans’ Phone Records Act (S. 936, H.R. 1942).
Under the CDR program, the NSA has collected information about millions of Americans’ phone calls. While these records don’t contain the actual contents of telephone calls, they do include phone numbers and call times and length—more than enough information to provide the NSA a clear picture of our social relationships, interests, and affiliations. If the NSA knows that you called a suicide hotline at 1:00 in the morning, does it matter that the agency doesn’t have the contents of that call?
If the NSA knows that you called a suicide hotline at 1:00 in the morning, does it matter that the agency doesn’t have the contents of that call?
Besides being an invasion of Americans’ privacy, the program is also ineffective: prior to the passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, both the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board (PDF) and the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies (PDF) concluded that the CDR program was neither essential nor effective in the government’s counterterrorism investigations.
Ever since USA FREEDOM reformed the CDR program in 2015, the civil liberties community and members of Congress have repeatedly asked the NSA for information about how widespread the CDR program is, but the NSA has been unable or unwilling to provide that information. In May 2018, the Agency admitted that it had collected countless records that it wasn’t legally authorized to obtain, but still failed to provide meaningful information about just how widespread the program was. And in 2019, the New York Times reported that rather than modify the program in order to comply with the law going forward, the NSA had stopped using the program altogether.
The CDR program does nothing for national security, and the NSA appears to be incapable of utilizing the program without breaking the law. Let’s end this invasive surveillance program once and for all. Please tell your members of Congress to cosponsor S. 936 and H.R. 1942.