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

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
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 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 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 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.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid