(New York Magazine) “It’s called protecting America,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein of the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday, in response to questions about the government’s indiscriminate collection of phone records from millions of Americans. “This is just metadata,” she said. “There is no content involved. In other words, no content of a communication.” What, exactly, is this data, and what does it tell them? According to the top-secret court order obtained by the Guardian, “the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over [to the National Security Agency], as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls.” But taken together, and in mass, the implications are huge.

“When you take all those records of who’s communicating with who, you can build social networks and communities for everyone in the world,” mathematician and NSA whistle-blower William Binney — “one of the best analysts in history,” who left the agency in 2001 amid privacy concerns — told Daily Intelligencer. “And when you marry it up with the content,” which he is convinced the NSA is collecting as well, “you have leverage against everybody in the country.”

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