The White House on Thursday defended the government’s mass collection of phone records from Verizon as "a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats,” the Associated Press reported

The White House was responding to a Guardian report Wednesday that the National Security Agency was collecting metadata from the carrier on all customers' calls, both in the United States and between the U.S. and foreign countries, over a three-month period. Data included where and when calls were made but not the content of the calls. The official did not confirm to AP that NSA was actually collecting the data.

An order by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, obtained by the Guardian, required Verizon to share the data with NSA on an “ongoing daily basis." The order was granted on April 25 and is set to expire on July 19.

The data requested included the numbers making and receiving the call, location data and call time and duration. The government did not request the actual content of the calls.