“The Obama administration confirmed the existence of a classified U.S. government program that gathers data on foreign nationals from Internet companies, defending the effort as legally authorized and essential to thwarting terrorist attacks,” Mike Dorning and Chris Strohm report for Bloomberg News. “The disclosure last night came a day after reports emerged of a secret court order compelling Verizon Communications Inc. to provide the National Security Agency with data on all its customers’ calls. While the revelations stirred outrage among privacy-rights advocates, U.S. lawmakers from both parties acknowledged earlier yesterday that they were aware of the Verizon order and backed the collection of telephone records as necessary to combating terrorism.”

“The news came as President Barack Obama is being challenged over his regard for individual privacy and constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the press,” Dorning and Strohm report. “The Post and the Guardian reported yesterday, citing classified documents, that the FBI and NSA had accessed the central servers of nine U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs.”

Dorning and Strohm report, “Microsoft Corp., Yahoo! Inc., Google Inc., Facebook Inc., and Apple Inc. were among the technology providers involved, the newspapers reported. The companies issued statements last night either denying that they had granted the government access to their servers or saying that they were unaware of the program… The American Civil Liberties Union last night condemned the data collection described by the Post and Guardian as an abuse of power and called on U.S. lawmakers to investigate. ‘Unchecked government surveillance presents a grave threat to democratic freedoms,’ ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said in an e-mailed statement. ‘These revelations are a reminder that Congress has given the executive branch far too much power to invade individual privacy.'”

“The Supreme Court has never ruled on the constitutionality of such a sweeping surveillance program. In February, the court voted 5-4 to bar a challenge by lawyers and civil-rights activists to a federal law that allows government wiretapping of international phone calls and e-mails,” Dorning and Strohm report. “The majority didn’t rule on the surveillance program itself, instead saying the opponents lacked “standing” to sue because they hadn’t shown they were being harmed.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]

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Report: Intelligence program gives U.S. government direct access to customer data on Apple servers; Apple denies – June 6, 2013