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

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults 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.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


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