News / USA

Legislators Query Holder on NSA Phone Records

Civil Libertarians Rail Over Phone Records Seizurei
X
June 07, 2013 12:06 AM
The Obama administration has come under fire after it was reported Thursday that the government has been secretly collecting the phone records of tens of millions of Americans who use Verizon as their phone carrier. The report in the British newspaper The Guardian said the move was authorized by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as part of the government’s ongoing counter-terrorism activities. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Civil Libertarians Rail Over Phone Records Seizure

Testifying before a previously scheduled Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Justice Department's budget, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday was met with questions regarding Wednesday's report by Britain's Guardian newspaper that the National Security Agency has been secretly collecting phone records of tens of millions of Americans who use Verizon as their landline or cell phone carrier.
 
Holder said Congressional legislators had been fully briefed on the intelligence-gathering operation, but that it would be inappropriate for him to say anything more in a public forum about the program.
 
The Court Order

  • Requires Verizon to provide daily call detail records until July 19, 2013
  • Details include telephone numbers, calling card numbers, time and duration of call
  • Does not include substantive content of communications
  • Covers domestic US calls and calls between the U.S. and abroad
  • Does not cover calls within foreign countries

Source: The Gaurdian
The Obama administration has come under fire in the wake of the British paper's report that the move was authorized by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as part of ongoing federal counter-terrorism activities. The information gathered reportedly included phone numbers of both parties on a call as well as time, date, duration and location of calls.
 
The order from the government’s special surveillance court did not cover actually listening in on the calls or their content, according to the report.
 
“Whoever was running this program knows they really screwed up," said Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk as he questioned Holder. "I would just ask that you kind of seize the records and not allow the destruction of evidence that they have accidentally monitored other branches of the government."
 
“Well, as I said, I would be more than glad to discuss this in an appropriate setting,” the attorney general replied, expressing agreement with some of the committee members that a closed hearing should be held to discuss the issue since it involved national security concerns.
 
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers of Michigan said similar data-mining efforts have proven to be effective in the past.
 
"Within the last few years this program was used to stop a terrorist attack in the United States," he said. "We know that."
 
But revelations about the program sparked outrage among many civil liberties advocates. Elizabeth Goitein, Co-Director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, a New York-based non-partisan think tank, said clandestine collection of phone records on such a massive scale is an abuse of power.
 
“There is simply no way that those are all relevant or necessary to an authorized investigation, so it’s too broad," she said. "The power is already very broad in the statute and it’s being exercised in a way that is simply too broad for legitimate counter-terrorism purposes.”
 
Jim Harper, an information policy expert with the CATO Institute, a Washington-based libertarian think tank, says broad information sweeps like the one reported are not always an effective counter-terrorism tool.
 
“The use of all Verizon phone records in the United States to search for terrorism will fail," he said. "This program is part of an overreaction to terrorism. It won’t actually find terrorism but ultimately we will see uses that are quite detrimental to our Fourth Amendment rights and our privacy — the privacy of all of us, all law-abiding American citizens.”
 
Without confirming the story, a senior Obama administration official on background defended the practice as part of the provisions of the Patriot Act, a controversial law passed by Congress after the 2001 terrorist attacks designed to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools.
 
Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina also defended the phone records sweep during his questioning of Attorney General Eric Holder at the Senate hearing.
 
"I am a Verizon customer and it doesn’t bother me one bit for the National Security Agency to have my phone number, because what they are trying to do is find out what terrorist groups we know about and individuals and who the hell they are calling," he said.
 
Some senators said the practice has been ongoing for some time and was begun under the previous administration of President George W. Bush.

Listen to our full interview with Jim Harper, conducted by VOA's Pamela Dockins.

You May Like

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid