The Obama administration is defending reports of a secret federal court order that granted the National Security Agency a warrant to compile information about every phone call conducted on Verizon's network.

A White House spokesperson called the program a "critical tool" for protecting the country.  In fact, it could be more far-reaching than anyone first realized with reports Thursday that it involved every call made in the U.S. that included customer of AT&T and Sprint.

Some are calling it "protecting America" others say it is "nothing particularly new. It has been going on for years."

The program, according to The Guardian'Glenn Greenwald, who first reported the existence of the warrant for Verizon's data, enables the government to gather information on potentially every electronic communication in the United States - where is was made, from what contact number and how long it lasted. This so-called "metadata" does not include a recording of the actual phone call or transmission. But it can be useful in unearthing networks of people.

For more details on the story, here is an article from NBC News "Top Intelligence Official Declassifies Phone Surveillance Program Details"

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