Senators should have known about snooping, says McCain
June 9th, 2013
11:37 AM ET
8 years ago

Senators should have known about snooping, says McCain

(CNN) – Lawmakers who are now expressing outrage over the government’s surveillance of phone records and Internet activity should have paid closer attention when they were voting to reauthorize provisions in the Patriot Act, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said Sunday.

Reacting particularly to fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s assertion this week the programs amount to an “assault on the Constitution,” McCain told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley that members of Congress had not been left in the dark on what powers to government has in monitoring Americans.

“The Republican and Democrat chairs, and ... members of the Intelligence Committee have been very well briefed on these programs,” McCain said. “We passed the Patriot Act. We passed specific provisions of the act that allowed for this program to take place, to be enacted in operation. Now, if members of Congress did not know what they were voting on, then I think that that's their responsibility a lot more than it is the government's.”

Paul, a Kentucky Republican who enjoys support from a large bloc of libertarians, was elected to the Senate in 2010, years after the Patriot Act was first passed. However, the key provisions of the act that have been subject to scrutiny this week were reauthorized in the past two years.

In 2011, when Congress was debating the re-authorization of Section 215, Paul offered amendments that would have limited the government’s powers of surveillance.

Section 215 allows the FBI to apply to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court - FISA court - to issue orders granting the government access to any tangible items in foreign intelligence, international terrorism and clandestine intelligence cases. It’s the measure cited this week in a leaked document that revealed the Obama administration obtained a secret court order for phone records from Verizon.

Some lawmakers from both parties say they’re worried the government’s interpretation of the law – and not the law itself – is being kept secret from members of Congress. McCain argued Sunday for continuing the practice of only briefing intelligence committee members on top secret actions taken by U.S. agencies.

“I don't think the 535 members of Congress should be briefed on every program that our government is engaged in. That's why we have intelligence committees,” McCain said, adding he would be open to involving the rest of Congress on some additional discussions of intelligence gathering.

“But we ought to be careful that we don't discuss practices that we employ that would help the enemy evade our detection and apprehension,” he said.

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.


Filed under: John McCain • Rand Paul • TV-State of the Union
soundoff (103 Responses)
  1. Marie MD

    Just like maybe, just maybe, you might have known that you were palling around with a known kidnapper and having your photograph taken with him to boot?
    meet any communists in Cuba?

    June 9, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  2. plain&simple

    Even a broken clock is right twice a day....this applies to Senator McCain. If tea party members of congress need lessons in governing they should talks them BEFORE running. Comprehend what you vote for or against is lesson #1.

    June 9, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  3. amysname

    Obama's credibility is ZERO! He and the DEMOCRATS made such a loud noise when Bush was implementing this but later EXPANDED IT! Too many lies and and misleading statements from this administration gives them ZERO credibility! All that they needed to do was to EXPLAIN to the PEOPLE that this is a necessary tool but instead they LIED!

    June 9, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  4. Gurgyl

    It is NOT snooping. It is NOT illegal either. It for the GOOD of national protection. With its lack 9/11 happened and nineteen terroriste came to distroy WTC. JUST KNOW THIS.

    June 9, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  5. Ordinary Average American

    "Now, if members of Congress did not know what they were voting on, then I think that that's their responsibility a lot more than it is the government's.” That responsibility includes you, McSenator!

    June 9, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  6. Thomas

    Rand Paul needs rehab , or maybe change his name to Jim Beam ..

    June 9, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  7. PJ

    "... now if members of Congress did not know what they were voting on, then I think that that's more their responsibility
    than it is the government's."
    -–
    Exactly, except to say that Congress is a part of the "government".
    If these fools would read what they are voting on, study the laws, and quit working half-time maybe we could
    believe their "outrage".
    Instead, they put blinders on, forge ahead in their stupidity, then scream because they "didn't know"?????
    We could file a lawsuit against them for dereliction of duty.

    June 9, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  8. vp

    So Mr. McCain is suggesting Mr. Rand Paul was being straight up dishonest....

    kinda suspected that already.

    June 9, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  9. edward_s

    You gotta like how one party always acts like they didn't know when the other one does something.

    June 9, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  10. betty

    People really that clueless? The government has more ways than this to keep an watch on people. This is part of keeping you safe in your country. You don't like it? Tuff.

    June 9, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  11. Mohammad

    I am 100% ok with the big brother gathering both meta data and content. This is a necessity to help in capturing the bad guys. The only thing that bothers me is that the US shares this information with Israel and that should be stopped immediately. They can mine this data for a completely different purpose including blackmailing our politicians and journalists and silence any criticism to their policies.

    June 9, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  12. Jack

    I am 100% ok with the big brother gathering both meta data and content. This is a necessity to help in capturing the bad guys. The only thing that bothers me is that the US shares this information with Israel and that should be stopped immediately. They can mine this data for a completely different purpose including blackmailing our politicians and journalists and silence any criticism to their policies. sigh.

    June 9, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  13. ThinkAgain

    “We passed the Patriot Act. We passed specific provisions of the act that allowed for this program to take place, to be enacted in operation. Now, if members of Congress did not know what they were voting on, then I think that that's their responsibility a lot more than it is the government's.”

    Every once in a while this man makes sense.

    Rant Paul is just trying to keep his name in the news because he's running for president. Doesn't change the fact that Rant's a nitwit.

    June 9, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  14. mike mcinnis

    This is old news. The fact everyone forgot that the government had an open door policy with phone and internet providers isn't Obama's fault.

    June 9, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  15. MJW

    For once since Senator McCain chose Sarah Palin, I agree with him. I think our main objective is to find this person that leaked this information. Since it is a very narrow group of people that have this information, they should be made to pass a lie detector. I think James Clapper should launch his own spy trap. The security and safety of the mass trumps the right of any one individual. I don' t see how we can discuss/debate secret NSA action without alerting the enemy. So tired of these so called whistle blowers who are creating havoc with our national security.

    June 9, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  16. Thomas

    This wouldn't have happened under GW Bush ?

    June 9, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  17. Trombonebiker

    Congress again shows their stupidity! Vote them all out starting with anyone named Paul!

    June 9, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  18. Jaimie

    I'm not in the car....... what can I say.

    June 9, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  19. rs

    This is silly- perhaps if Republicans put intelligent individuals on the Intelligence Committees (i.e. not utter fools like Bachmann in the House), or if they had ever READ the USA PATRIOT Act, they would have "known" about the data gathering. Shoot, this is the world THEY BUILT under Bush- do they really think that anyone buys that they didn't know? Really?

    June 9, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  20. Gary

    Hey Rant, maybe they dont tell you everything because they dont trust you. I know most Americans dont.

    June 9, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  21. Carol

    This is not snooping and lying as the Obama haters want to believe. Everyone was well briefed on this so there should be no raised eyebrows.

    June 9, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  22. swej

    The truth is the staffs in the House and Senate are the ones running the show. The elected officials are just the front people who don't have a clue of what is really going on. None of them bother to read the legislation. They completely rely on staff to advise them on how they should vote.

    BTW – the last time anyone checked Senator McCain Congress is one third of the US government.

    June 9, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  23. enuff

    Where was the outrage when Bush/Cheney were pushing the Patriot Act through...oh that's right, REAL Americans wanted it. Then they chose to ignore the Geneva Convention, and waterboarding was implemented because of 9/11. But Obama is the one right-wingers have a "problem" with on their cell phones.

    June 9, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  24. Joan

    Whoever leaked this should be held accountable. The person that did this just helped a whole lot of terrorists who might be planning a terrible act. Now they know not to call, e-mail, etc. anyone because the trail could go back to them. This has just given the terrorists a heads-up. Nice job whistleblower. Hope you're proud of yourself.

    June 9, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  25. Donkey Party

    amysname – What in the world are you screaming about? Upset over the LIES that the GOP has been feeding you? People like you don't deserve to vote, since it's plain to see you fail miserably in thinking for yourself.

    June 9, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
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