Two leading members of the Republican Party have jumped to the defense of the Obama administration for demanding details of tens of millions of phone calls.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., says Americans have nothing to be concerned about unless they are talking to terrorists; Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said the practice already had thwarted a major terrorist attack.
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Rogers declined to elaborate, but said he was in touch with U.S. officials about providing more information.
He said the NSA search is for business records and is constantly being reviewed. He said nothing is being done without court approval.
The British paper The Guardian reported Wednesday that a secret court order was issued in April for Verizon to collect data on its customers' phone calls in an "ongoing, daily basis," and give the information to the National Security Agency.
The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court granted the order on April 25, 10 days after the Boston Marathon bombing. Under the order, the phone numbers of both parties, locations, times, and call durations — but not contents of the conversations — are turned over to the FBI. The order expires July 19 but can be renewed.
Graham told Fox News' Steve Doocy, "I’m sure we should be doing this.
"I’m a Verizon customer," he added. "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," Graham said on "Fox & Friends" Thursday.
"I don’t think you’re talking to the terrorists. I know you’re not," Graham told Doocy, also a Verizon customer. "I know I’m not. So we don’t have anything to worry about."
Graham said he is "glad" the FBI is monitoring phones, "but it is limited to tracking people who are suspected to be terrorists and who they may be talking to. I’m glad the NSA is trying to find out what the terrorists are up to overseas and inside the country."
When asked, Graham said it is "a bit unusual" that the Obama administration says the war on terror is over, "but we're still trying to track the enemy."
Still, he said, he thinks it is the right thing to do because it could catch terrorists trying to attack the United States.
Pressed on whether he is certain that the data is being used only for combatting terrorism, Graham insisted, "Yes, I am sure that that’s what they’re doing."
However, Democrats weren't so supportive.
Former Vice President Al Gore, tweeted, "In digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?"
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee issued a joint statement: "We believe this type of program is far too broad and is inconsistent with our nation’s founding principles. We cannot defeat terrorism by compromising our commitment to our civil rights and liberties.”
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