Alan Dershowitz: Collecting Phone Records a Necessary 'Compromise'

Friday, 07 Jun 2013 06:23 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

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The collection of millions of Americans' phone records by the National Security Agency is a necessary compromise on privacy —but should be monitored to keep it from being abused, renowned civil-rights attorney Alan Dershowitz says.

"Even Benjamin Franklin was wrong when he said those who would give up any privacy or rights in the name of security deserved neither. That's nonsense. That's hyperbole. That's extremism," Dershowitz told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

Story continues below.

"We need to have some compromises. We've made compromises over the years. Airport security is a compromise."

The Harvard Law professor said most people don't know that letters sent through the United States Postal Service are already allowed by law to be monitored.

"Remember letters? … The Supreme Court has said you can analyze and have a database of all the addresses, the address from which you sent it, the address to which you sent it,'' Dershowitz said.

"That's the kind of compromise we're making."

Dershowitz said he believes President Barack Obama's assertion that the National Security agency is merely monitoring phone numbers and the length of the calls, not the actual content of them.

"We shouldn't indulge in the kind of paranoid streak in American politics by thinking all government's bad and they're doing it for bad reasons," he told Steve Malzberg.

"They're doing it for good reasons. They may be overdoing it – they are overdoing it – but they're doing it benevolently to try and stop terrorism not to try to find stuff out on political opponents."

However, Dershowitz added, he wants to know more about the secret court used by the National Security agency to approve its actions.

"I don’t like this secret court that makes these decisions and almost never turns down a government responsibility. We don’t know who's on the court," he said.

"Does it get appointed by the Chief Justice? Should it be more widely appointed? Should it represent a greater diversity of judges? There's a lot we need to know …"
His suggestion?

"Have a lawyer who has security clearance but who's there to argue against giving the warrant so at least both sides are presented," Dershowitz said.

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