Menu
Senator pushes for an end to NSA phone records program

Senator pushes for an end to NSA phone records program

Leahy questions the constitutionality of the program, but the US attorney general defends it

Senator Patrick Leahy questioned how the Constitution allows the National Security Agency's bulk collection of U.S. telephone records and repeated his calls for President Barack Obama's administration to end the program during a hearing Wednesday.

The Obama administration should heed the recent advice of the U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) and end the phone records collection program, said Leahy, a Vermont Democrat.

"Is there anything in the U.S. Constitution that gives authority to the Congress to pass a law that enables and empowers an executive agency such as the NSA ... to open, to listen or to seize either the mail, the phone conversations or the electronic conversations of U.S. citizens?" asked Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Leahy called on Congress to vote to end the telephone records program. Congress should "ensure that this legal theory is not used by any administration to spy indiscriminately on its citizens," he said. The U.S. Department of Justice's current interpretation of the antiterrorism Patriot Act would allow the government "to acquire virtually any database that it might someday, down the road, for some reason, somehow find useful," Leahy added.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, testifying at the DOJ oversight hearing, defended the metadata collection program, repeating the Obama administration's view that the data collection is legal, despite the PCLOB report last week saying it is not.

Fifteen judges in the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, plus two district court judges, have found the NSA phone records program legal, Holder noted. "I believe they are correct; it is an appropriate use, in a constitutional sense, of the government's power," Holder said. "But the question is ... just because we can do something, should we do it?"

But Holder received mixed messages on the NSA phone records program from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. While Leahy repeated his call for an end to the program, others defended it. Republican Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah and Jeff Sessions of Alabama both said they believe the phone records program is legal.

Several other members of the Judiciary Committee didn't question Holder on the NSA program.

Hatch suggested the PCLOB exceeded its mission by weighing in on the legality of the NSA program. The board should stick to making policy recommendations, he said. And while the board questioned whether the program is effective in fighting terrorism, Hatch questioned how critics could determine its value by finding "proof that this program alone prevented an actual attack."

"I think we've fallen into a false analysis there," Holder said. "I'm not sure that's the only way by which you can judge the validity or the value of the program. There's a mosaic of things we take into determination."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags U.S. Department of JusticetelecommunicationJeff SessionsU.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance CourtU.S. National Security AgencyEric HolderU.S. Senate Judiciary CommitteeOrrin HatchgovernmentPatrick Leahyprivacysecurity

Slideshows

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Reseller News looks back on a tumultuous 12 months for the New Zealand channel, assessing the fallout from a year of sizeable industry change. Whether it be local or global mergers and acquisitions, distribution deals or job changes, the channel that started the year differs somewhat to the one set to finish it - Reseller News assesses the key moments that made 2016.​

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016
​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

Hewlett Packard Enterprise honoured its top performing Kiwi partners at the second running of its HPE Partner Awards in New Zealand, held at a glitzy ceremony in Auckland. Recognising excellence across eight categories - from distributors to resellers - the tech giant celebrated its first year as a standalone company, following its official split from HP in 2015.

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel
Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix recently took to the seas for a Christmas Cruise around Sydney Harbour with its Australia and New Zealand staff, customers and partners to celebrate a stellar year for the vendor. With the sun out, they were all smiles and mingled over drinks and food.

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise
Show Comments