The National Security Agency program allowing a blanket monitoring of phone records is "fairly creepy," former vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan says.
"To do a blanket dragnet nationwide, that seems to go way beyond the scope of the law that I'm familiar with called the Patriot Act," the Wisconsin Republican congressman told Racine-based WRJN-AM radio
Ryan said he understands that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court needs powers to go after suspected terrorists and the people they are communicating with, but revelations that all records are swept up seems to go too far.
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"There's so much to learn yet. The many questions have to focus on civil liberty," Ryan told the radio station.
"You always favor Americans' civil liberties," Ryan said. "The point is, is this necessary? Is this legal? Does this comport with the spirit of the law? Those are the kind of questions we have to ask.
"A blanket data mining project like this not only gets into the creepy phase of your mind, but also leads your mind to think, 'What other civil liberties could be compromised with this kind of a project?'
"I want to see more containment of this thing and I want to learn a lot more about it," Ryan said.
Fellow Wisconsin Republican and Patriot Act author Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner expressed similar sentiments
on Thursday in a letter he wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder after saying in a statement that "seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American."
"These reports are deeply concerning and raise questions about whether our constitutional rights are secure," Sensenbrenner wrote. "How could the phone records of so many innocent Americans be relevant to an authorized investigation as required by the Act?"
However, several of Ryan's Republican colleagues have taken a different tone. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on Fox News that he was "glad the NSA is trying to find out what terrorists are up to, overseas and inside the country."
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"I don't mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government is going to make sure that they try to match up a known terrorist phone with somebody in the United States," the South Carolina Republican said.
He described Republicans
who didn't agree with the NSA collection of phone records as a "marginal national security group within our party."
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