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

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered 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 Unchartered 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