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

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

    These are the congress people who have been attacking Nancy Pelosi who said: " Vote for the Bill in order to find out what is in it". She was quite right and very clever woman. She knew all of them more than they know themselves.

    June 9, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  2. us_1776

    Obama, let's review the 4th Amendment again, shall we?


    June 9, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  3. us_1776

    I am condemning BOTH Bush and Obama.

    I am condemning BOTH Republicans and Democrats for creating this Police State.

    It is time to repeal the unpatriotic Patriot Act.

    It is time for Americans to demand the return of their rights and liberties.


    June 9, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  4. us_1776

    The Patriot Act has done more to damage our nation and the principles it was founded on than all the enemies our nation has ever faced.


    June 9, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  5. rs

    Perhaps if Republicans actually worked in Congress- you know- not holding a record number of filibusters (more in the past 5 years than in the rest of American History!), playing political games, engaging in witch hunts, and don't get me started on the House GOP.

    No, no, you can't spend 5 years doing nothing after crashing the country under Bush and expect anyone with a room temperature IQ number believe that you all didn't know about YOUR USA PATRIOT Act.

    June 9, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  6. Tony Torres

    Once again the stupidity of members of the Senate & Congress has come to light, if they had invested the time to really understand the Patriot Act maybe they could have a opinion. Since most of these morons did not or do not read what they are passing, they do not have any grounds to compliant. They are only complaining now because it is under Obama's watch other than that they would not say a word, how predictable.

    June 9, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  7. Jaimondrow

    This article falsely implies that Senator Paul voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act. Shameful!
    quote: "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."

    June 9, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  8. honestmidwest

    For once I agree with McCain. They have agreed to it since Bush was in office, agreed to it again later, etc., etc.. Now some of the anti-Obama people are complaining. (the same who agreed to it). In this day and age, you have to take steps to protect people (and those people complaining-would be the VERY SAME people complaining if something wasn't done). They should spend their time on fixing important issues, vs. all their wasteful politically motivated childlike behavior.

    June 9, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  9. Robert

    Yea Senator McNut, we'll just tell everyone in Congress about all our classified actions. They can keep a secret, right? I think the good Senator has recently struck his head onto concrete. Maybe a demonstration IED exploded too closely in Syria last week.

    June 9, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  10. buddy

    Freedom is slowly being eroded under the guise of protecting you.

    Dangerous and slippery slooe.

    That much power in the government hands is not good.

    June 9, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  11. john

    U can't expect stupid people that don't believe in climate change to learn to read reports that state the obvious...that there is and has been data mining for decades...make note that there is really nothing wrong with it, as the agencies that do the mining do not have jurisdiction to charge anyone with a domestic crime...but you should not expect the stupid people to understand that either.

    June 9, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  12. CC

    I was for it before I was against it,! the new GOP theme song.

    June 9, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  13. John in Brooklyn

    Notice Mr. McCain didn't say that he felt that the Senate would have STOPPED the snooping, only that they should have had the right to snoop at the snoopers. Come on guys, let's just repeal the Patriot Act and get it over with!

    June 9, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  14. Dan

    This is hardly news. I have read at least two books in the last five years detailing how intelligence agencies engage in large-scale data mining of phone records either for specific investigations or overall security monitoring. I'm no fan of John McCain, but he makes a good point; the senators and congressmen who voted to authorize this have got some serious egg on their faces for not bothering to read what they were legislating. Makes me wonder what else they voted for or against without even a glimmer of understanding.

    June 9, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  15. AFRetired

    What is mind-boggling is that Americans keep complainin about a background check on guns because of the loss of liberty. Yet, you amost never hear anyone discussing the outrageous Patriot Act. There is nothing Patriotic about it. It is the most abusive piece of legislation ever. This is not about Obama, this was enacted under Bush but with the backing of both parties. Even worse, both parties seem to have no issue with re-authorizing the Act. But NO ONE can pretend they did not know that the Act permits these abuses (and MUCH worse). Every legislator and citizen should know what is in the Act and have an informed opinion.

    June 9, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  16. TheTraveler

    McCain and his ilk are the very ones who perpetrate and continue legislation like the Patriot Act. The FUD, fear, uncertainty and doubt they propagate guarantees this. Calls for US involvement in Syria is a good example. We have no right or need to be there but McCain would see it otherwise. War solves nothing save for increasing the bottom line for companies who produce war goods.

    June 9, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  17. bdo1183

    What a crock these programs were part of the original patriot acts they aren't new. The only reason he puts this crap out is he's trying to run for office again next election. Second off anyone who thinks i'm wrong feel free to look it up. This is how politicians get us it's because we don't bother to remember things we should

    June 9, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  18. robet

    Although I didn't vote for him. I never doubted John McCain's integrity and sense of fairness. All governments have secret programs. We have to trust that those at the top (the committees) are exercising due diligence.

    June 9, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  19. Anthony in California

    So Senators DO NOT read what they are voting for?
    Wow. Just wow.

    June 9, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  20. DJ

    It's pretty sad the writers of either NCIS seem to know about the laws Congress passed and how they are used than the members who voted them in without reading or comprehending them.

    June 9, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  21. Logic N LA

    Anything that happens from our government is the blame of Congress and they never be outraged. They vote and pass all our bills and laws. Wire tapping? Congress. Wars for no reason? Congress. Recession? Congress. Obamacare? Congress. Benghazi? Congress ( they voted to not fund more security for embassies). To blame Obama is only a minor part of the equation. He can only sign what is in front of him. And...Congress ALWAYS knows ( or has the information) what's in a bill or law.

    June 9, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  22. grace

    2 + 2 = 5

    June 9, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  23. Yon

    Wow! You people who are defending this. Maybe, if they were spying on the bad guys, instead of the good guys – maybe they would have caught the bad guys? They did not even catch the two they were told about! That right there should get Obama removed from office alone. He refused to have the word "Islam" in DOJ, HMS manuals.

    June 9, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  24. Rightster

    Why John, you and your buddies have abrogated so much to the Imperial Presidency during your tenure in the Senate, that this and previous Chief Executives could care less if you knew or not.

    June 9, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  25. Loki

    congress should be fired for allowing this–not sure who they are working for, but it is not US–this goes for the prez as well

    June 9, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
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