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The Post-Snowden Era: How the Guardian's Report on NSA Phone Data Had the Government Panicking

It was Spencer Ackerman’s first full day at the Guardian when he was asked to work on what would become one of the biggest journalistic coups of our time. He was tasked with informing the government and Verizon about the reports Edward Snowden had been supplying to the Guardian, and things weren’t pretty.

In an interview with Fusion’s Jorge Ramos on Tuesday, Ackerman said the government’s reaction was “confusion, panic and very quickly dissatisfaction”.

Ackerman added, “We wanted to make sure we were optimally fair to the government to tell us what they thought their concerns were with this story and what their reactions were. It became pretty clear their interest in this story was in it not happening.”

Verizon, on the other hand, wanted to stay below the radar.

“Verizon just wouldn’t talk to us at all,” Ackerman recounted.

The telecommunications company was one of the major U.S. phone companies that was compelled to turn over their data to the NSA every 90 days on an ongoing basis through a secret surveillance court called FISA.

This past weekend, the FISA court rejected Verizon’s challenge on the NSA’s call data collection efforts after a ruling from a U.S. District Court judge in December said they were likely unconstitutional.

When asked if these NSA measures were a direct response to 9/11, Ackerman said, “9/11 gives an enormous impetus inside the government to collect everything there is on the basis of stopping a future terrorist attack and that justification is all-consuming in the government. The thing they are most afraid of is another terrorist attack without them knowing it.”

Credit: Veronica Bautista

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