The federal government forced Verizon to turn over information on the phone calls of millions of innocent Americans and forbade them from telling anybody about it, The Guardian reports. Kudos to Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill, and Spencer Ackerman for the impressive scoop, and for posting the evidence here.
Who helped the journalists obtain that "top-secret" court order?
Hopefully, that's going to stay secret for a long time. As Charlie Savage and Edward Wyatt note in the New York Times, "The order was marked TOP SECRET//SI//NOFORN, referring to communications-related intelligence information that may not be released to noncitizens. That would make it among the most closely held secrets in the federal government, and its disclosure comes amid a furor over the Obama administration's aggressive tactics in its investigations of leaks." In other words, it was likely leaked by someone who took a personal risk exposing it.
Why? It is impossible to know. But it isn't hard to identify likely motives. Perhaps the leaker felt morally repulsed by the knowledge that the government is spying on millions of innocent citizens in secret, something normally associated with Communist and fascist regimes, not democratic republics. (It's true that the order doesn't cover the content of calls, and that a separate warrant is needed to connect the information to actual users -- not that we'd know if they sought those, or if officials now or in the future just ignored that legal requirement to spy on individuals. One wonders what Richard Nixon would've done with access to all that information.)