News / USA

Discussion on US Domestic Surveillance Continues

Discussion on US Domestic Surveillance Continuesi
X
July 31, 2013 9:59 PM
Top U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials say the government’s vast domestic data collection activities do not infringe on citizens’ privacy but do help identify and defeat terrorist threats. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, officials testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee hours after the Obama administration released documents detailing telephone data collection programs exposed by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
Michael Bowman
Top U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials say the government’s vast domestic data collection activities do not infringe on citizens’ privacy but do help identify and defeat terrorist threats.  Officials testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee hours after the Obama administration released documents detailing telephone data collection programs exposed by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

Revelations that the U.S. government collects telephone records have unnerved many Americans, according to committee chairman Patrick Leahy.

“I think the patience of the American people is beginning to wear thin. But what has to be of more concern in a democracy is the trust of the American people is wearing thin," he said.

Wednesday, the Obama administration released previously-classified documents on the extent and limitations of federal telephone snooping.

“These are telephone records maintained by the phone companies. They include the number the call was dialed from, the number the call was dialed to, the date and time of the call and the length of the call," said Deputy Attorney General James Cole. "The records do not include the names or other identifying information. They do not include cell site [cellular telephone location] or other location information, and they do not include the content of any phone calls."

Actual monitoring of phone calls requires special court authorization.  Overall, data collection has helped defeat terrorists, according to National Security Agency Deputy Director John Inglis.

“There were 54 plots that were disrupted over the life of these two programs," he said.

The House of Representatives recently voted down a proposal to limit telephone data collection.  Similarly, senators showed no inclination to terminate the programs - but did express dismay over the lack of voluntary public disclosure. 

“We have a lot of good information out there that helps the American public understand these programs," said Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse. "But it all came out late.  It all came out in response to a leaker [Edward Snowden]. There was no organized plan for how we rationally declassify this so that the American people can participate in the debate."

Vast data collection has a chilling effect on freedom, according to Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“People who know the government could be monitoring their every move, their every phone call, or their every Google search will comport themselves differently.  They will hesitate before visiting controversial websites.  They will hesitate before joining controversial advocacy groups.  They will hesitate before exercising rights that the Constitution guarantees," he said.

Not so, says Robert Litt, general counsel in the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

“Collection of this kind of telephone meta-data from the telephone companies is not a violation of anyone’s constitutional rights," he said.

Litt said that disclosure of the programs has damaged the government’s ability to protect the nation.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs