June 6th, 2013
11:34 AM ET
2 years ago

Senate intelligence leaders say phone surveillance is 'lawful'

(CNN) – The top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Select Committee On Intelligence said Thursday the government's top-secret court order to obtain phone records on millions of Americans was "lawful" and Congress had been briefed on the issue.

"As far as I know this is the exact three month renewal of what has been the case for the past seven years. This renewal is carried out by the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] court under the business records section of the Patriot Act," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the intelligence committee, told reporters in the Senate gallery. "Therefore it is lawful. It has been briefed to Congress."

The four-page order, which The Guardian published on its website Wednesday, requires Verizon to hand over "originating and terminating" telephone numbers as well as the location, time and duration of the calls in the United States - and demands that the order be kept secret.

Feinstein, D-California, said the government can only access the metadata, not the actual conversations that take place on the calls. After the information goes into a database, it can only be used if there is "reasonable and articulate suspicion that the records are relevant and related to terrorist activity."

She said terrorists "will come after us if they can and the only thing that we have to deter this is good intelligence to understand that a plot has been hatched and to get there before they get to us."

Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the vice chairman and top Republican on the committee, said the surveillance is nothing new. He added it's been "very clear all along through the years of this program" that the information is "simply" metadata and can't be tapped into without approval from the FISA court.

"It has proved meritorious because we have gathered significant information on bad guys and only on bad guys over the years," he said.

– CNN's Dana Bash, Ted Barrett and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.


Filed under: Dianne Feinstein • Saxby Chambliss
soundoff (568 Responses)
  1. Boomer in Mo

    Repeal the Patriot Act.

    June 6, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  2. mike

    This should bother ALL of us...Democrat and Republican. Leaders from both of the parties have betrayed us all in the name of "homeland security".

    June 6, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  3. mike

    globber, Franklin never actually said that...but it's a good quote nonetheless.

    June 6, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  4. I Am God

    Liberal Sense I take it that you don't read or listen very carefully do you? If you did you would know that this occurred over 7 years ago. Guess who was President then? You are just a troll seeking to spread your hatred toward people who are Democrat.

    June 6, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  5. bankrupt1

    Ask her who the terrorists are. Sometimes it looks like banksters. And why would we trust them, or our government given that they are largely placed by banksters (we lost the concept of elections. these are auctions now)?

    June 6, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  6. rs

    Rudy NYC

    SamT wrote on page 19:

    This is exactly the thing 1930's Germany would have done, under the exact same guise, and call it exactly the same thing: "Protecting the homeland". It's scary.
    -------–
    Don't forget that the law was written by, passed by, and signed into law by Republicans. The ACLU fought many of the provisions, and the Bush administration vigorously defended them in court and won.
    ______________________
    Well and even better- who created Homeland Security- the biggest ever government agency? Why that would be Mr. Bush.

    June 6, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  7. Malory Archer

    ajkgtowntx

    Political affiliation aside, This has been going since 2007. That was Bush Jr and all his infinite wisdom. I don't recall folks on EITHER side raising hell about it then.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Then you weren't paying attention as dems & "libruls" did complain and were called unpatriotic, anti-American, against the troops and treasonous amongst an unending list of other adjectives. Or maybe the voices of those on the left who DID complain were drowned out by shouts of USA! USA! USA from the majority party and their mouth breathing sycophants.

    June 6, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  8. bankrupt1

    And why would we trust them when we don't even know what country is controlling our politicians? How could we protect our own country if they corrupt our government and drop it from within?

    June 6, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  9. lovespandas

    I have nothing to hide – do you? I could care less who "listens" in on my conversations!

    June 6, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  10. lovespandas

    @ I am God – SHAME ON YOU!

    June 6, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  11. Malory Archer

    Fair is Fair

    IF Obama were to do just what you said, I would be the first person to congratulate him on a job well done. Hell, if he had done it in his first term, it would have been enough for me to cast a vote FOR him for re-election. And I say that with sincerety... that's how much I hate the patriot act and the DHS.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Sure you would – and I'm the Queen of England.

    June 6, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  12. Langor

    Our government has lost their way. Our leaders are quickly becoming fascists. I now believe that 9/11 is the American equivalent of Germany's kristallnacht and the patriot act is our little Hitler.

    June 6, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  13. Total2199

    Road to Hell is paved with good intentions....

    June 6, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  14. Total2199

    Like phone calls are being monitored, comments on this forum are being monitored too. And you call it a FREE society??? LOL!!!!

    June 6, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  15. No one

    Get a warrant, freaks.

    June 6, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    @Liberty4All – The most disgusting aspect of this is my fellow citizens who believe that this is ok or that it will actually reduce fatalities or terrorism. This has been going on for the past 7 years, yet we still had the incident in Boston
    ____________________________________
    That's true it didn't prevent that attack, however we don't know how many have been averted, do we? Don't like this intrusion anymore than the next guy but we have to realize it is a whole different world we're living in and the threats are greater than in the Cold War days as we are no longer the one country with nukes.

    June 6, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  17. Mark

    It is our fault. We are letting the government take away our rights because they have us believe we are under constant threat. That we are in danger at any moment. Bad stuff happens all over the world and more tragic events will happen. But we should not be scared into changing the way we live. I have heard many use this as a political point, but when the election is over, they vote for every legislation that comes there way that takes away our rights.

    So yes, we are to blame, for believing that we need their protection at every moment. You can't be free if you think you are under constant danger. That is the excuse they use to control us.

    June 6, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  18. Tadpole

    It is indeed interesting when the elected officials have measures in place such as these that no one is aware of. It is one thing to do it because the people that need to make such decisions think it is needed, and yet another thing to keep it a secret.

    June 6, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    1108

    Rudy NYC

    SamT wrote on page 19:

    This is exactly the thing 1930's Germany would have done, under the exact same guise, and call it exactly the same thing: "Protecting the homeland". It's scary.
    ---–
    Don't forget that the law was written by, passed by, and signed into law by Republicans. The ACLU fought many of the provisions, and the Bush administration vigorously defended them in court and won.
    --------------

    And don't forget how Senator Obama railed against the Patriot Act.
    ==========================
    ==========================
    Thank-you for pointing that out. Did you intend to be defending my argument?

    June 6, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  20. Cindy

    step two, first they bought the ammo and have the drones flying over our homes, next comes the intel on who they want to take out, irs has helped in that too, come obammy wanting a third term, he will be ready to take conservatives out quickly so that there will not a an uprising from them.

    June 6, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  21. Malory Archer

    Langor

    ...I now believe that 9/11 is the American equivalent of Germany's kristallnacht and the patriot act is our little Hitler.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    And how did you feel prior to January 20, 2009?

    June 6, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  22. Stan

    In times of war there has always been censorship of communications between our enemy nations and Americans. That is why monitoring of telephone calls between Afghanistan, Iraq, or Iran with American citizens did not bother me too much, at the time. However, collecting information on all communications between Americans within the United States cannot be construed as anything but a 1984, Big Brother type action to dominate all citizens.

    June 6, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  23. freightguy

    I am God – and if you read or listened it said that this was the exact 3 month renewal of what has been going on for the last 7 years..not that it happened 7 years ago..read the article yourself before you jump on someone else

    June 6, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  24. Frank

    "lovespandas: I have nothing to hide – do you? I could care less who "listens" in on my conversations!"
    _______________________________________-
    Would you care if I listened to your phone conversations, read your e-mails, and got a look at your bank account? You have nothing to hide. Right? Share your e-mail address and password so that we can take a peak.

    June 6, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  25. cardone

    For security of a country, I will do anything to stop terrorism. The rest of you can move to any Islamist compound and blow yourself up.

    June 6, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
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