Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) called the revelation that the National Security Agency is collecting the phone records of millions of Verizon customers “an astounding assault on the Constitution.”
The Guardian obtained a leaked top secret court order issued in April requiring the communications company to turn over records on an “ongoing, daily basis,” revealing “for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing,” wrote Glenn Greenwald.
“The National Security Agency’s seizure and surveillance of virtually all of Verizon’s phone customers is an astounding assault on the Constitution. After revelations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted political dissidents and the Department of Justice seized reporters’ phone records, it would appear that this administration has now sunk to a new low,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said this morning.
Paul noted that his amendment with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) that would attach Fourth Amendment protections to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act last year was defeated, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying that FISA was “necessary to protect us from the evil in this world.”
“The Bill of Rights was designed to protect us from evil, too, particularly that which always correlates with concentrated government power, and particularly Executive power,” Paul said. “If the president and Congress would obey the Fourth Amendment we all swore to uphold, this new shocking revelation that the government is now spying on citizens’ phone data en masse would never have happened.”
But Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Fox this morning Americans “should be concerned about terrorists trying to infiltrate our country and attack us, and trying to coordinate activities from overseas with — inside the country.”
“Under the FISA law you just can’t track people’s phone calls. You’ve got to have a reasonable belief that the people you’re monitoring in terms of monitoring conversations are one of the persons is involved in terrorism,” he said.
“So you’re trying to data mine and find out, you know these numbers that we know are in the hands of bad guys, whoever they’re calling. And then once you find a match, you can — you can monitor. But you just can’t monitor people’s phone calls.”
The senator noted that in the wake of Obama’s “tone deaf” speech on the terrorist threat last month he’s “glad the NSA is trying to find out what terrorists are up to, overseas, and inside the country.”
“I’m a Verizon customer,” Graham 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’s phone with somebody in the United States. I don’t think you’re talking to terrorists. I know you’re not. I’m know I’m not so we don’t have anything to worry about.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said “while we must aggressively pursue international terrorists and all of those who would do us harm, we must do it in a way that protects the Constitution and the civil liberties which make us proud to be Americans.”
“As one of the few members of Congress who consistently voted against the Patriot Act, I expressed concern at the time of passage that it gave the government far too much power to spy on innocent United State citizens and provided for very little oversight or disclosure. Unfortunately, what I said turned out to be exactly true,” Sanders said.
“The United States should not be accumulating phone records on tens of millions of innocent Americans. That is not what democracy is about. That is not what freedom is about. Congress must address this issue and protect the constitutional rights of the American people.”