FILE - In this Feb. 10, 2011 file photo, Chris Cioban, manager of the Verizon store in Beachwood, Ohio, holds up an Apple iPhone 4G. Britain's Guardian newspaper says the National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon under a secret court order. The newspaper said Wednesday, June 5, 2013 the order was issued in April and was good until July 19. The newspaper said the order requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, File)
ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (AP) — The White House says a court order allowing the government to secretly collect millions of U.S. citizens' telephone records is a critical tool to fight security threats.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest says he can't discuss classified information. But he says the court order in question allows the intelligence community to know when terrorists or suspected terrorists are engaging in dangerous activities. He says that's particularly true for people located in the U.S.
He says the order doesn't allow the government to listen in on calls, but only includes details like telephone numbers.
Earnest says there's a robust legal regime overseeing the program and that Congress has been fully briefed.
Disclosure of the phone records was first reported by The Guardian newspaper and confirmed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
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