June 6th, 2013
11:34 AM ET
1 year 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. Jim

    So, libs take a good law like the patriot act – they abuse it to violate the Constitution – and then blame Republicians for their criminal activity?

    June 6, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  2. Malory Archer

    Dave

    So...terroists only use Verizon??

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

    Or maybe they're tracking something specific and the user IS a Verizon customer.

    June 6, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  3. Helen Troy

    Sounds like the senator is a saying trust government... Anyone here have reason to trust the government at this time?

    June 6, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  4. U.S. Citizen

    The Statist have successfully made previously illegal acts legal.

    June 6, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  5. Malory Archer

    Sunflower2

    JustSayin........ I couldn't agree with you more... you hit the nail right square on the head... Frightening as it is, it's our new reality....

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

    And you would both be wrong as this has been our reality for nearly a decade.

    June 6, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  6. mike

    So, NOW Republicans are concerned about the environment of anti-terror overreach that their guy created, when there's a brown guy in office. Nice, fellas. Nice.

    June 6, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  7. realist58

    Ok, it's lawful. Is there a really good reason why only Verizon customers are being spied on?

    June 6, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  8. EDGY

    I agree with "just sayin". Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, but for me anyway, it didn't take the current IRS debacle to teach me that. Our personal freedoms were diminished greatly by the ironically called "Patriot act". This gave powers to the government far beyond any they previously had. It is with sadness that we should all realize that this is exactly what the radical Muslims we call terrorists wanted, to destroy our way of life. A way of life they hate because an illiterate goat herder wrote a book that they wholeheartedly believe in, and are willing to kill for and worse yet, hope to die for as well. All so they can have what they can't possible have in life, 72 vigins. Christopher Hitchens was right, religion does destroy everything.

    June 6, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  9. sparky

    If the terrorists didn't exist, these people would invent them.

    June 6, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  10. Kevin

    Oh, it's produced results? Well then, violate away!

    ....Uh-oh.

    June 6, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  11. Vida

    If it is lawful/legal why not tell the American public from the get go?

    June 6, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  12. Mr. Flibble

    This isn't news. This was started like 10 years ago when The Dark Lord was in office.

    June 6, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  13. David Z

    Feinstein has been one of the biggest traitors of the American public and our rights as citizens for decades now. I don't say this because she is a democrat etiher, simply because its the truth.

    June 6, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  14. rs

    fed up

    I agree with 'just sayin'. What ever happened to "Due Process" and "Unreasonable Search and Seizure"? The Government complains because the public is becoming more and more paranoid because of the lack of transparency in Washington. Too bad they can't see their own arrogance and realize the damage they are doing to this country.
    _________________________
    So, where were you when the USA PATRIOT Act was created by Ashcroft, and signed into law by Bush? You were probably one of the idiots screaming "if you haven't done anything you have nothing to worry about", it was all about the fear of terrorism remember? This is the stuff that was put in place when things like 9/11 happened, and were to be used when the Boston Boms went off. Get it now?

    June 6, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  15. bdby

    I am going back to carrier pigeon for communicating.

    June 6, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  16. tanthonyS

    Makes sense to me. The Constitution was never intended to be a end-all, and must be flexible as the world changes. Deal with it. Don't blame Liberals, Republicans, or Democrats: blame the criminals and terrorists.

    June 6, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  17. Jack 63

    Following those guidelines the baseball players shouldn't be in trouble for doping. After all, it's been going of forever.

    June 6, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  18. ernieboomer

    Those evil evil Republicans are taking freedom that was earned through the blood of our forefathers. Oh wait I forgot who was in charge of the Senate

    June 6, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  19. James

    Yes, Jim. That is exactly what happened. You are so astute.

    June 6, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  20. Malory Archer

    Jim

    So, libs take a good law like the patriot act – they abuse it to violate the Constitution – and then blame Republicians for their criminal activity?

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

    Er, no. They're following the same methods carried out by the previous administration who created this fiasco. Funny how your ilk told us during those dark days that if we had nothing to hide it wasn't a problem.

    June 6, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  21. American Patriot

    Treason! If this is not a direct act of treason against the American people I do not know what is.

    In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's sovereign or nation.

    June 6, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  22. djkruse

    Oh, so because it has been going on for years, that makes it OK?

    Wow. Just wow.

    Our government is out of control.

    June 6, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  23. rs

    Jim

    So, libs take a good law like the patriot act – they abuse it to violate the Constitution – and then blame Republicians for their criminal activity?
    _____________________________________
    So far, no court has found the USA PATRIOT Act to be "unconstitutional". It is being used precisiely as it was designed to.

    June 6, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  24. yeahright

    SPW

    These Senators don't understand that just because they call it lawful doesn't mean us law abiding citizens will accept it as so

    --
    Funny, isn't it, that most people were perfectly willing to accept it under the last administration? Nary a peep. I remember people writing comments saying basically, "I have nothing to hide". Now it's a problem. Why is that? As rs said, here's your reward for sleeping through 2000-2008.

    June 6, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  25. sonkarlay

    If u don't have anything to hid let them do their job, ur da same ppl that said what da government was doing after da boston attack and now u crying about phone records turns over to nsa?

    June 6, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
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