“Now we are all persons of interest” NSA whistle-blower Thomas Drake tells Salon why the Verizon surveillance is the new normal, and may never be undone

Friday, June 7, 2013
By Paul Martin

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For Thomas Drake, the former National Security Agency employee who blew the whistle on the agency’s expansive post-9/11 surveillance programs in 2006, the latest revelation of blanket surveillance is simply “déjà vu.”

Drake, who was indicted under the Espionage Act and faced life in prison before federal charges against him were eventually dropped, told Salon Thursday that news that the NSA had a top secret order to retain millions of Americans’ phone records daily came as “no surprise.”

“Since 9/11, with the help of a series of enabling legislation, this sort of surveillance has become routine and institutionalized,” he said. “That order is extraordinary in showing how routine this is,” noted Drake — referring to the top secret government order obtained by the Guardian, in which telecom giant Verizon is commanded “on a daily basis” to provide the NSA with “all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad, or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

Drake pointed out, “That literally entails all phone records, or every subscriber, home phone lines, business lines, cell phones … And that can include location tracking in metadata.” As Drake, alongside his former attorney and friend at the Government Accountability Project Jesselyn Raddack, has long stressed, these sort of surveillance practices have only the weakest pretense of national security interests. They are blanket and without specific target. “Now we are all persons of interest,” Drake told Salon.

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