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.


    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

    You May Like

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora