News / USA

US Defends Secretly Collecting Phone Records

FILE - A cell phone user passes a Verizon store in New York.
FILE - A cell phone user passes a Verizon store in New York.
VOA News
A White House spokesman says a court order allowing the government to secretly collect millions of U.S. citizens' telephone records is a critical tool to fight security threats.
 
Josh Earnest says President Barack Obama is welcoming debate about the tradeoff between civil liberties and security but is determined to use all tools to keep the United States safe.  He said the order does not allow the government to listen to calls.

Attorney General Eric Holder sidestepped questions about the issue during a Senate subcommittee hearing Thursday, but he said there is no intention to spy on members of Congress or the Supreme Court.  

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
Disclosure of the court order was first reported by The Guardian newspaper and confirmed by Senator Dianne Feinstein.  She said collecting telephone records from millions of Americans has been going on for seven years and lawmakers are aware of it.

The practice is drawing criticism from public policy and civil liberty groups that object to the broad surveillance powers granted under U.S. laws.

Jim Harper, the Cato Institute's information policy studies director, told VOA a broad collection of phone records will fail as a counterterrorism measure.

"This program is part of an overreaction to terrorism," he said. "It won't actually effectively 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."

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



In a statement, American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said "the program could hardly be more alarming."  He said "innocent people" had been put under constant government surveillance.

Media reports say the court order falls under the controversial U.S. domestic counterterrorism surveillance law, the Patriot Act.  It became law soon after the September 11, 2001, al-Qaida attacks against the United States.  

In 2011, President Obama signed into law a four-year extension of key provisions of the Patriot Act, including those allowing authorities to use roving wiretaps [electronic eavesdropping], conduct court-ordered searches of business records, and conduct surveillance of foreign nationals who may be acting alone in plotting attacks.

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore reacted on his Twitter account saying, "In digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous."
Brennan Center for Justice program co-director Elizabeth Goitein told VOA the government's interpretation of the law is surprising.

"It is stunning, but I should say that it is not surprising because we have known for years that the government has a secret interpretation of the so-called business record provision of the Patriot Act," she said. "And, we have known this because senators who have access to classified information on the intelligence committees have been saying this."

The Obama administration has been under fire recently after revelations the U.S. Justice Department secretly obtained phone records from the Associated Press news agency in connection with a leak investigation.

You May Like

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: sherry from: ca
June 06, 2013 1:33 PM
is it more curcial to supervise internets rather than cell phone? someone take the free advantage of internet communication, even it is not so hard to design the small software to communicate each other via internet in special ports and websites.

by: Bobby
June 06, 2013 11:17 AM
Don't have a problem with this surveillance, but am not entirely convinced this wiretapping alone will prevent any well planned action from taking place. Diligent officers are what it really takes and this human element is key, need more be said.?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
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 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 US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of 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 Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
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.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs