Key U.S. senator objects to part of Obama spy data plan

WASHINGTON Sun Jan 19, 2014 3:48pm EST

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the National Security Agency from the Justice Department in Washington January 17, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the National Security Agency from the Justice Department in Washington January 17, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee objected on Sunday to President Barack Obama's proposal for the government to give up control of the storage of the telephone records of millions of Americans it holds as part of its counterterrorism efforts.

Obama on Friday announced an overhaul of U.S. surveillance activities following criticism sparked by the disclosure of leaked documents exposing the wide reach of National Security Agency spy efforts.

He proposed an overhaul of the government's handling of bulk telephone "metadata" - lists of million of phone calls made by Americans that show which numbers were called and when.

Obama said the government will not hold the bulk telephone records. A presidential advisory panel had recommended that the data be controlled by a third party such as telephone companies, but Obama did not propose who should store the phone information in the future.

Signaling congressional opposition to the change, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who heads the intelligence panel, criticized the idea of moving the data out of government control.

"I think that's a very difficult thing because the whole purpose of this program is to provide instantaneous information to be able to disrupt any plot that may be taking place," Feinstein told the NBC program "Meet the Press."

"I think a lot of the privacy people (advocates) perhaps don't understand that we still occupy the role of the 'Great Satan,' new bombs are being devised, new terrorists are emerging, new groups - actually, a new level of viciousness. And I think we need to be prepared," she added.

Obama asked Attorney General Eric Holder and the intelligence community to report back to him by March 28 on how to preserve the necessary capabilities of the program without the government holding the metadata.

The usefulness of keeping the metadata records was questioned by a presidential review panel, which found that while the program had produced some leads for counterterrorism investigators, such data had not been decisive in a single case.

Representative Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, faulted Obama for creating uncertainty surrounding the program.

"Just in my conversations over the weekend with intelligence officials, this new level of uncertainty is already having a bit of an impact on our ability to protect Americans by finding terrorists who are trying to reach into the United States," Rogers told CNN's "State of the Union."

Democratic Senator Mark Udall, a member of the intelligence panel, urged an end to the collection of metadata.

"We can be effective in protecting our country but we don't need to collect every single phone record of every single American on every single day," he told the CBS program "Face the Nation."

Feinstein expressed doubt that a proposal to end the collection of such data could pass in Congress, adding: "The president has very clearly said that he wants to keep the capability."

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Jim Loney and Meredith Mazzilli)

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Comments (21)
jhdale wrote:
It’s amazing to me that none of the coverage of this topic acknowledges that this is exactly how the DEA deals with phone metadata. On the one hand we have pro-intelligence people claiming it will be too hard, and on the other hand we have pro-privacy people claiming it will endanger our privacy. Well, listen up folks. The DEA works with AT&T to query AT&T’s database of phone metadata. AT&T’s database goes back 26 years, not the paltry 5 years of the NSA database. AT&T’s database includes cellphone location data. And the DEA uses administrative subpoenas — issued by the agency, not reviewed or approved by any judge — rather than warrants.

So, yes, obviously it is possible. Too easy, in fact.

Yes, obviously it means AT&T is tracking far more data than they need for billing purposes. And may be selling it on the side.

And then the DEA covers up their source by using “parallel construction” to fabricate an evidence trail that will be presented in court.

But you don’t have to believe me, this was reported months ago: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/02/us/drug-agents-use-vast-phone-trove-eclipsing-nsas.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Jan 19, 2014 4:20pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Speaker2 wrote:
I think a lot of the privacy people (advocates) perhaps don’t understand that we still occupy the role of the ‘Great Satan,’ new bombs are being devised, new terrorists are emerging, new groups – actually, a new level of viciousness. And I think we need to be prepared,” Feinstein added.

Feinstein, You don’t get it, we value privacy more than we value security. Its not like a small group of people are going to destroy the US.

If the USA would keep from meddling into other nations affairs and just pull out of the Middle East, 99.9% of terrorist threats would go away.

Jan 19, 2014 5:36pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Obama still doesn’t get it … it is against the LAW …… according to the Constitution…….

Jan 19, 2014 9:55pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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