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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid