Reporting from the Guardian. HTML superscripts (shown in blue):

The scale of America's surveillance state was laid bare on Wednesday as senior politicians revealed that the US counter-terrorism effort1 had swept up swaths of personal data from the phone calls of millions of citizens for years.2

After the revelation by the Guardian of a sweeping secret court order that authorised the FBI to seize all call records from a subsidiary of Verizon,3 the Obama administration sought to defuse mounting anger over what critics described as the broadest surveillance ruling ever issued.

A White House spokesman said that laws governing such orders "are something that have been in place for a number of years now" and were vital for protecting national security. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, said the Verizon court order had been in place for seven years. "People want the homeland kept safe," Feinstein said.

But as the implications of the blanket approval for obtaining phone data reverberated around Washington and beyond, anger grew among other politicians.

Intelligence committee member Mark Udall, who has previously warned in broad terms about the scale of government snooping,4 said: "This sort of widescale surveillance should concern all of us and is the kind of government overreach I've said Americans would find shocking." Former vice-president Al Gore described the "secret blanket surveillance" as "obscenely outrageous".

The Verizon order was made under the provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) as amended by the Patriot Act of 2001, passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.5 But one of the authors of the Patriot Act, Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, said he was troubled by the Guardian revelations. He said that he had written to the attorney general, Eric Holder, questioning whether "US constitutional rights were secure".6

He said: "I do not believe the broadly drafted Fisa order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act. Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American."

The White House sought to defend what it called "a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats". White House spokesman Josh Earnest7 said Fisa orders were used to "support important and highly sensitive intelligence collection operations" on which members of Congress were fully briefed.

"The intelligence community is conducting court-authorized intelligence activities pursuant to a public statute with the knowledge and oversight of Congress and the intelligence community in both houses of Congress," Earnest said.8

He pointed out that the order only relates to the so-called metadata surrounding phone calls rather than the content of the calls themselves.9 "The order reprinted overnight does not allow the government to listen in on anyone's telephone calls," Earnest said.

Same text with superscript variants:

The scale of America's surveillance state was laid bare on Wednesday as senior politicians revealed that the US counter-terrorism effort1 had swept up swaths of personal data from the phone calls of millions of citizens for years.2

After the revelation by the Guardian of a sweeping secret court order that authorised the FBI to seize all call records from a subsidiary of Verizon,3 the Obama administration sought to defuse mounting anger over what critics described as the broadest surveillance ruling ever issued.

A White House spokesman said that laws governing such orders "are something that have been in place for a number of years now" and were vital for protecting national security. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, said the Verizon court order had been in place for seven years. "People want the homeland kept safe," Feinstein said.

But as the implications of the blanket approval for obtaining phone data reverberated around Washington and beyond, anger grew among other politicians.

Intelligence committee member Mark Udall, who has previously warned in broad terms about the scale of government snooping,4 said: "This sort of widescale surveillance should concern all of us and is the kind of government overreach I've said Americans would find shocking." Former vice-president Al Gore described the "secret blanket surveillance" as "obscenely outrageous".

The Verizon order was made under the provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) as amended by the Patriot Act of 2001, passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.5 But one of the authors of the Patriot Act, Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, said he was troubled by the Guardian revelations. He said that he had written to the attorney general, Eric Holder, questioning whether "US constitutional rights were secure".6

He said: "I do not believe the broadly drafted Fisa order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act. Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American."

The White House sought to defend what it called "a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats". White House spokesman Josh Earnest7 said Fisa orders were used to "support important and highly sensitive intelligence collection operations" on which members of Congress were fully briefed.

"The intelligence community is conducting court-authorized intelligence activities pursuant to a public statute with the knowledge and oversight of Congress and the intelligence community in both houses of Congress," Earnest said.8

He pointed out that the order only relates to the so-called metadata surrounding phone calls rather than the content of the calls themselves.9 "The order reprinted overnight does not allow the government to listen in on anyone's telephone calls," Earnest said.