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Civil Libertarians, Consumers Uneasy About Government Collecting Verizon Phone Records

(CBS) – The U.S. government has been secretly collecting the phone records of millions of us.

CBS 2's Derrick Blakley reports on why the National Security Agency may be watching who you call and who calls you.

If you use Verizon, the federal government is collecting records on all your phone calls and has been since April. That revelation unnerves many customers.

"I just feel the whole thing is an invasion of privacy, and they shouldn't be able to do that," says Verizon customer Courtney Arundel.

Britan's Guardian newspaper revealed it: an April 25 secret court order for the Verizion records, issued a week after police tracked down the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.

Civil libertarians say the practice began after 9/11.

"This is the Bush-era terrorist surveillance program, re-enacted under the Obama administration. This is a massive intrusion into the lives of millions and millions of telephone subscribers," says Harvey Grossman of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The NSA doesn't record names, addresses or content of calls. But it does track phone numbers and location of callers.

"An entire profile could be constructed, from where you go to church, to what psychiatrist you visit, to what political associations you have," Grossman says.

Government computers track calling patterns to try to uncover terrorist networks. The question: whether too much privacy is being sacrificed for security.

"We want to keep America safe, but we don't want to compromise our basic freedoms, and our privacy as individuals," U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, says.

Several U.S. senators said this court order appears to be a renewal of a phone-records program that's been going on for seven years.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, says the program prevented at least one significant case of terrorism in the past few years. But he can't talk about it, because details are still top secret.

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