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. Phaerisee

    I have heard that the timing of this has to do with the opening of the Utah Data Center today.

    June 6, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  2. Starmexus

    Bye bye bill of rights

    June 6, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  3. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Don't get your panties in a bunch people. It's called The Patriot Act. You're telephones calls have been getting eavesdropped on for quite a while now. When you hear your echo on a phone call, that means someone is listening.

    June 6, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  4. Chris

    I'm sure police states would produce some good results as well. Let's try that next!

    June 6, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  5. brainiac3397

    And Im guessing these Senators can also have their phones legally monitored? or are they above their own laws?

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

    Well, between Chambliss' unwavering support for the Patriot Act and Feinstein's recent assault on the 2nd Amendment should anyone really be surprised that these two don't believe Americans have any civil rights the government is obliged to respect?

    June 6, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  7. Pandamonius

    "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?"
    ------
    lol! The Patriot Act (signed by Bush in 2001) by its very nature violates the Constitution. The "libs" did nothing to abuse or change it. The fact that Chambliss even said this is nothing new or out of the ordinary proves that. he's about as rabid (and bright) as Bachmann.

    June 6, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  8. Bob

    Fitting, the Senator trying to destroy the 2nd Amendment apparently has other amendments she wants to destroy.

    June 6, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  9. rs

    Dave

    So...terroists only use Verizon??
    ______________________________
    What? Maybe you think they have their own cell phone network?

    June 6, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  10. Athiz

    I agree, lets lie to cover up lies. You people need to wake up, it is almost too late.

    June 6, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  11. jim

    Sure that what libs do.

    June 6, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  12. chachabrown

    I'm not worried about the environment. Not at all.

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

    The Patriot Act isn't a good law, Jim. It =hasn't= been abused. This wire-tapping is perfectly legal. That's the problem.

    June 6, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  14. Fred

    Results!!!! That's why we were able to stop the Boston bombing

    June 6, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  15. Ferathka

    I know the Republicans are gonna be like omg look at what Obama is doing omg. Just so you know this has been going on for years, even before Obama was in office. Both parties are basically the same with a few minor differences. They are both bought and paid for by the same special interests. We have no democracy anymore. We are a Plutocracy....get use to it unless you want to change it.

    June 6, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    Yawn. The Congresscritters voted for it. GOPers pushed it. GOPers foamed at the mouth and called anyone opposing it or warning of its potential abuse "unpatriotic" and "un-American" and lambasted us for "criticizing the POTUS during wartime" and "aiding the enemy." GOPers then rabidly defended Dubya and Cheney when they were caught collecting millions and millions of peoples' phone data. CNN did a few news segments on it. The MSM made it all sound like no big deal and simply "interesting" that they would be collecting all the data and had a "debate" about how in the world they could possible process all this data in the first place...but never did the MSM, particularly not Faux News, throw a hissy fit about it being some kind of aggressive tyrannical overreach. NEVER. IOKIYAR.

    You want the Patriot Act repealed? I sure do. But when you create this kind of authority/power in the POTUS, you create a concomitant duty for him to use it in response to these attacks (this was done in response to the Boston Marathon bombing) lest he be accused of failure to act, failure to use the tools at his disposal and a dereliction of duty. If you don't like this and don't want it to happen, repeal the Patriot Act. Anything less is rank hypocrisy.

    June 6, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  17. justthefaxpleez

    "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?"

    The patriot act is anything but a good law. It needs to be repealed as we were promised in 08 by Obama.

    June 6, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  18. Jayakumar

    II dont see any reason why this is wrong. Maybe in the pre-alqueda era, it would have been. But in a world where US citizens themselvs are becoming turncoats and doing terrorism inspired by islamist extremism, I think it is perfectly warranted. SOmetimes, we have to giveup some freedoms to enjoy the rest of it. And if the government does not do these things, they will find it very difficuilt to stop terrorists. If they dont they get blamed. So they need these tools.

    June 6, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  19. Austin

    No one is blaming anyone Jim, this is bi-partisan committee and it has gathered information since Bush era. I am a Republican and I don't feel libs are blaming anyone here, yet, you feel they are, get back to your cave.

    June 6, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  20. GhengisJohn

    i wonder if all them obamaphones they been giving away use verizon?

    June 6, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  21. frank

    They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
    Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759 apparently Ben Franklin is right and if we keep these same ppl in power then shame on us

    June 6, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  22. Won

    He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.

    June 6, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  23. thomase

    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?
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    That's hilarious. This has been going on for 7 years and been renewed every 3 months. Both parties are complicit you dunce.

    June 6, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  24. emskadittle

    i love how none of the republicans are mad at chamblis, but are giving Feinstein hell, i guess a couple paragraph is all they can read at a time

    June 6, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  25. Dan

    I don't mind the government checking my cell calls, as long as they can prevent more fatalities....I am pretty sure that the government has good leads and is applying high-tech data mining techniques to track down the bad guys......Un-american is to let your neighbor or family die due to terrorist acts....if something happens, then everybody starts asking, why the government didn't do anything to prevent the attack. It is very clear to me that the government is trying to take action.

    June 6, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
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