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.

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. Gwen Anderson

    Carol I had know Idea I was being spyed on and I watch fox news all the time. They are the only ones that tell you what is really going on. I dont know were the meating was to inform us, but I know knowbody invited me. Just because Im hadicaped doesnt mean I dont listen

    June 9, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  2. SilverHair

    The only raised eyebrows are those who failed to know what they were voting on. Shame all around.

    June 9, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  3. Dave

    McCain or Rand Paul or any other republican had never heard of this when Bush signed the bill? Give me a break.

    June 9, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  4. jomisam

    In his remarks on June 7, Obama said "every member of Congress has been briefed on this (telephone) program...Your duly elected representative have been consistently informed on exactly what we're doing." It turns out that only the Intelligence committees of the House and Senate are fully apprised of NSA activities. That's only 36 out the 535 people in Congress, a whopping 7% of all Representatives and Senators combined. The other 499 members of Congress just get whatever watered-down information the administration wants them to get and we're supposed to trust the likes of Obama, Feinstein, Rogers, etc. when they tell us that the government is not violating our rights. Yeah, right!

    It should also be noted that terrorists don't use Verizon, ATT, Sprint, etc. They use throw away cell phones. I think it highly unlikely that any significant piece of information about terrorist activities have or will ever come from these companies phone records.

    June 9, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  5. noodlebrain

    @ Gurgyl said:

    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 |

    Uh. No. 9/11 happened because the info was collected but ignored.

    June 9, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  6. David

    I have to laugh st the pure political posturing by the Republicans on this issue. These clowns have ALWAYS supported the Patriot Act, with ALL of its reductions in privacy and civil liberties. Now, they sense an opportunity to damage the President, so they are shocked, SHOCKED I SAY, at this reckless regard for the right s of the people. Here is a simple solution for the Republicans: REPEAL THE PATRIOT ACT IN ITS ENTIRETY RIGHT NOW. If you don't, then we will have called your bluff on this political farce.

    June 9, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  7. jacksonian2012

    I don't care about torturing known terroists for information.
    I don't care about killing American terrorists abroad.
    I don't care about matching phone numbers or checking the Internet contacts of crooks.
    If it saves American lives, none of us should care what happens to the fanaitcs and kooks.

    June 9, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  8. Jules

    Everyone should know about it since it was one of the reasons many people didn't think the Patriot Act should not have been renewed. The elected representatives are just acting dumb about it thinking to score political points with those who will believe anything as long as it comes from the right wing.

    June 9, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  9. Indyswimmer66

    And yet... these same Congressmen scream "blood murder" every time we're "surprised" by a terrorist act!

    June 9, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  10. Jocho Johnson

    How do you know McCain is lying? His lips are moving

    June 9, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  11. Don Black

    I can't believe how many of you cowards are ok with the Patriot Act. You have slept while your right to assemble was taken from you, now you whine about your safety over your right to speak freely. You are a pathetic bunch of traitorous cowards who don't deserve the birth right your fathers have given you. Sleep soundly you pathetic sheep.

    June 9, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  12. Sam

    Thanks Old man , you do speak truth & that's why I respect you Sir.

    June 9, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  13. Victor

    All of them knew. They had better have known, otherwise they don't need to be in positions of authority. Have many of you lost your minds? Do you honestly believe all you hear, and ever thing you read about the low life's you've elected to represent you? If you do believe, you need more help than is currently humanly available. GET A LIFE.

    June 9, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  14. Talk to GW

    Mr. better talk to your ol' buddy, GW, about notifying congress. he started this ball rolling.

    June 9, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  15. Andrew

    Should've known about bad intel for Iraq, no bid contracts fom Cheney, derivatives,torture, insider trading, corporate oligarchy, the history of fascism in the u.s., voter suppression, koch brothers and on and on. Lots of willful ignorance. Shouldawouldacoulda...

    June 9, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  16. zon

    Well, Duh. What did they think they were voting for when they passed the Patriot Act?

    June 9, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  17. Data Driven

    Obviously, McCain is correct. Everyone in Congress knows, and approves of, the Patriot Act.

    But, with a black dude in the White House, some on the Right have to put on a show for their rube voters.

    June 9, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  18. lee36360

    Then the same things being said ABout Senator Paul could be said about Senator Obama.

    June 9, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  19. klur

    "Senators should have known about snooping, says McCain" Afterall they voted for it. THat's one of the most intelligent thing coming out of a Republican mouth in a while. What happened?

    June 9, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  20. nuntukamen

    Congress wants to blame everything on Obama, when, in fact, everything problematic is actually their own doing and blame.

    June 9, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  21. TR

    The members of congress who play politics with our national security is equivalent to a slap on the face to everyone who paid the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11 as well as uniform service members who died in war on terrorism. I sincerely hope the cowards that protect our enemy.

    June 9, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  22. John

    everyone just write to your congreesman/women and demand that the patriot act and the defence of america act be scraped. problem solved.

    June 9, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  23. dave

    Young Tea Party mavericks, you gotta just love them. So anxious to make a name for themselves. Each proclaiming I am more conservative than you. They all seem to have something else in common. From Sarah Palin to Michelle Bachmann these people just come across as uninformed and ignorant about issues they should understand. Time for intelligence tests for member of congress with special emphasis on future Tea Party hopefuls.

    June 9, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  24. TR

    The members of congress who play politics with our national security is equivalent to a slap on the face to everyone who paid the ultimate sacrifice on 9/11 as well as uniform service members who died in war on terrorism. I sincerely hope the cowards that protect our enemy get an ear full from real Americans.

    June 9, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  25. cbp

    Please, Senator McCain, do not try to fool us into believing that you did not know about the "snooping." This has been going on since 9/11 when Congress passed laws allowing the government to snoop and then amended when the law needed to be changed.

    Right after the identification of the brothers who were accused of being the Marathon bombings, we heard all of this commotion about the fact that we had not kept tabs on the older brother after the Russians supposedly told us about his meetings with certain Russians who were identified as jhadists. Just how did these Senators and Representatives believe we would be able to keep track of this man. We hear one story and then a few months later another story. The politicians move form one side to another depending on who is in the White House. We need a national policy that is not subject tot he whims of the politicians.

    If we want to be sure that the USA is not subject to bombings and attacks we need to have a means to get information. If we choose not to do so we cannot complain after the fact. If we know every little thing that the government does in the name of safety then we must be aware that the our safety will be compromised. If we are all willing to take our chances then so be it. We certainly could save billions of dollars but I wonder how many lives would be in danger every month.

    June 9, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
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