BRISTOL, Tenn. - Tens of millions of cell phone records may be in the hands of the federal government, all as a part of the ever-widening War on Terror.
"The line between domestic and external threats is almost obsolete, as least that's how the government is seeing it, "said Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis, Director of the King Institute for Security and Intelligence Studies at King University.
That blurry line apparently led to a secret government court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, to issue an order to Verizon Business Network Services, Inc. that demanded the phone company provide the National Security Agency a list of daily account call metadata on calls originating in the United States.
This information comes from an alleged top secret court order that was leaked to a British paper, the Manchester Guardian, and set off a firestorm of reaction from around the country and in Washington.
"There may be some good explanation for this, " said Sen. Bob Corker (R) Tennessee in a video posted to his Youtube account. "I've asked the president to be forthcoming with that, so we all understand publicly why it's being carried out this way."
Stewart Harris, a professor of law at the Appalachian School of Law, says that understanding could be hard to come by. "Whatever the government has done or allegedly has done that is reasonable is pursuant to the Fourth Amendment. The big problem is that nobody knows. The reason nobody knows is because it is all done in secret. You and I don't know what the government is doing, and the government essentially asking us to trust it. Trust us, it says, " said Harris. "Do you really want the government knowing exactly who you called?"
Dr. Fitsanakis told News 5 that this is the next evolution in the War on Terror, but Harris said it could violate Fourth Amendment rights to reasonable search and seizure and there could be no stopping the NSA under current laws. "I don't know that anyone is safe from that kind of government surveillance without some very serious legal reform," said Harris.
Both Fitsanakis and Harris told News 5 that due to the broad nature of the Verizon document, they would not be surprised if other phone companies had received the same type of order.