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. timvervba

    "n 2011, when Congress was debating the re-authorization of Section 215, Paul offered amendments that would have limited the government’s powers of surveillance."
    – – – – –
    Come on CNN take the extra step and tell your readers whether Senator Paul voted for the final passage of the re-authorization bill. Let us know if Senator Paul has proposed to repeal the Patriot Act thirty seven times, or if he is just blowing a lot of hot air.

    June 9, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  2. Tom

    McCain is daft!

    June 9, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  3. Name Uche Agonsi

    Old soldier never die quick. I sincerely pray that this issue would lunch political resurrection/reawakening for the good old McCain. But can someone out there tell Rand Paul & cohorts that Obama's duty is simply to implement the laws, Congress makes them....

    June 9, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  4. yogi

    Sincerity is not one of Paul's strengths. He will use anything in front of him, whether it is true or false, to use against the President. This guy is pathetic, and unfortunately it is not the latest we have to endure from him or his tea weanies.

    June 9, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  5. cbp

    Sorry. Should have read Sen. Paul not Sen. McCain. I apologize to Sen. McCain for attributing this notion of being int he dark to him instead of Sen. Paul. Perhaps Sen. Paul was out on the political trail or just was not paying attention.

    June 9, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  6. Downhillslide

    I thought they had to pass the bill in order to know what was in it??

    June 9, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  7. rl

    Yep, John you would think that they would have known better when this "Patriot" stuff started. You of all should know that something like this will only just keep hiding more and more, and it will only get worse. Wheat was your vote in 2003 on it?

    June 9, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  8. Joel Holtzman

    Of course the government has the right to collect phone histories. The Patriot Act gave the government the right to do so. To not only collect but to mine for details. All in the name of terrorism. Those on the right who are now complaining are the worst of hypocrites. You boys did it.

    June 9, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  9. here and back again

    John John John John. You did know. You signed the law into effect not once, but twice. If you don't read what you sign, whose fault is that?

    June 9, 2013 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  10. skytag

    I get so tired of this “assault on the Constitution" rhetoric some on the right use to get people all ginned up. I'm not saying this is unconstitutional, but if something Is unconstitutional that doesn't make it an "assault" on the Constitution anymore than speeding is an assault on driving laws or ignoring a company rule is an assault on the company.

    Whenever I see someone inject rhetoric like this into an argument my first reaction is to think he has a weak argument that's too weak sway people without an appeal to emotion.

    June 9, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  11. Republicans Are The American Taliban

    Michele Bachmann knows all about this program. She is a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Where are her comments?

    June 9, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  12. skytag

    I don't think he would have made a good president, but I often respect McCain for being an honest, standup guy. He's not pointing fingers here, as most people in Washington are wont to do. Even though the standard Republican reaction to anything that smells bad is to attack Obama for it, McCain's being honest by acknowledging Congress' responsibility in this.

    June 9, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  13. Thomas

    Rand Paul / Michele Bachmann 2016

    A mind is a terrible thing to use , downsize intelligence

    June 9, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  14. GOP = Greed Over People

    The Patriot Act shredded our right to privacy and was a travesty when the shrub and clan instituted it.

    But, to expect any subsequent President, even one that was initially argued against the Patriot Act as a Senator, will give up any powers granted by a previous President, is naive at best and moronic at worst.

    The GOP would do well to remember that, IF the party ever again wins a national office.

    June 9, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  15. Robert

    Read the Fourth Amendment. McCain is an idiot or worse. Guess what, the Boston bombing happened even though Russia warned us and other "red flags." Centralized data is a bigger threat. China hacks the NSA. The very fact that the NSA whistleblower leaked the info shows that the data is not safe.

    June 9, 2013 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  16. Len

    Yes Senator Paul, it is your responsibility to read all bills before you vote¡!

    June 9, 2013 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  17. Independent in Illinois

    A lot of the members of the current Congress, especially the House, weren't around when the Patriot Act was originally past, so of course they're crying foul. However you would think that they would be up to speed on the act as a whole by now. So to me, this smells purely like an attempt at a political smear campaign to distract from the other current, pressing issues because the GOP knew the battles were being lost. So they're attempting the smear campaigns (Benghazi by trying to smear Hillary Cinton, etc.) in order to try & set up themselves for a take over of all the branches in 2016. I really wish all Americans would see through these games & vote them out, next election.

    June 9, 2013 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  18. GI Joe

    The Bust Patriot Act allowed warrantless wire tapping (actually listening to conversations).

    In 2009 it was changed to require a warrant from the FISA courts and NO WIRE TAPPING. Now, under Obama, they collect numbers and duration of calls only.

    June 9, 2013 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  19. PaulCat

    Isn't it time for congress to take another vacation. They are working so hard.

    June 9, 2013 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  20. ja

    most have their heads in the sand, maybe we should put them on leave without pay, didn't bush start this after 9/11

    June 9, 2013 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  21. BuddyGC

    If the government was concerned about terrorist attacks, the southern border would be fully secured by now.

    June 9, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  22. GonzoinHouston

    Senator McCain, if there is anything left of the maverick gave us straight talk before 2000; if you still remember the honor you had as an officer and POW; if you still have the love of your country that you knew when you pledged your life to defend the Constitution, please, throw all your efforts behind a bill to repeal the Patriot Act. We've calmed down a bit now; we understand the risks we take. But we'd rather another terrorist attack, even another 9/11, than surrender our Bill of Rights.

    June 9, 2013 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  23. leadingedgeboomer

    Hell, I knew about the use of telephone metadata in 2006 from mainstream press reports. Anyone who claims ignorance now is either lying or mentally deficient.

    June 9, 2013 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  24. boungiorno

    Seriously, same people talking and nothings chaned HITIOUS!

    June 10, 2013 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  25. Good/Bad

    So all the republicans complaining now because Obama is president, you were complaining about the patriot act when it was first signed back in Bush's presidency to right....

    June 10, 2013 01:49 am at 1:49 am |
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