Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) on Thursday held a joint press conference to defend the mass collection of telephone metadata.
Feinstein said the collection of telephone records from millions of Verizon Communications customers was legal. The U.S. National Security Agency able to obtain a secret court order to collect telephone metadata thanks to the Patriot Act.
“As far as I know, this is the exact three month renewal of what has been the case for the past seven years. This renewal is carried out by the FISA Court under the business records section of the Patriot Act. Therefore, it is lawful,” she explained.
Progressive Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans have unsuccessfully pushed to narrow section 215 of the Patriot Act. The provision gives federal law enforcement the authority to secretly obtain “any tangible thing” from any business during international terrorism investigations.
“This is just metadata,” Feinstein continued. “There is no content involved. In other words, no content of a communication… The records can only be accessed under heightened standards. The information goes into a database, the metadata, but cannot be accessed without what is called, and I quote, ‘reasonable, articulable suspicion’ that the records are relevant and related to terrorist activity.”
Both Feinstein and Chambliss, who lead the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the mass collection of telephone records was necessary to fight against terrorism. Chambliss insisted the program had collected useful information “on bad guys — but only on bad guys, over the years.”
Watch video, uploaded to YouTube by CNN, below: