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Privacy groups, some lawmakers rip into NSA surveillance

Grant Gross | June 9, 2013
Reports of massive information collection from phone and Internet companies may violate the Constitution, critics say.

-- Statement from Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, on the phone records collection: "I believe that when law-abiding Americans call their friends, who they call, when they call, and where they call from is private information. Collecting this data about every single phone call that every American makes every day would be a massive invasion of Americans' privacy."

-- Jeffrey Chester, a privacy advocate executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said the "Obama-backed digital snooping plan makes a mockery" of the president's call for a privacy bill of rights for U.S. residents. "It appears neither citizens or U.S. companies have any concrete right to privacy in reality," he said in an email. "Ironically, what the administration is doing resembles the business models of the Internet giants such as Google and Facebook. They give lip service to consumer privacy, but in reality eavesdrop on nearly everything an individual does."

-- Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior counsel for civil rights advocate the Constitution Project, via email: "The disclosure of this program illustrates dramatically that Congress should not have reauthorized the FISA Amendments Act this past December without incorporating any additional safeguards for Americans' civil liberties. It also demonstrates that the administration's interpretations of surveillance laws should not be kept secret -- a practice that prevents any public debate and meaningful oversight of the broad interpretations being applied to surveillance authorities."

-- Statement from Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, on the phone records collection: "I am deeply disturbed by reports that the FISA Court issued an extremely broad order requiring Verizon turn over to the National Security Agency on a daily basis the company's metadata on its customers' calls. Under this secret court order, millions of innocent Americans have been subject to government surveillance. The Fourth Amendment safeguards liberty by protecting against government abuse of power. Overzealous law enforcement, even when well-intended, carries grave risks to Americans' privacy and liberty."

-- Statement from Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, on the phone records collection: "There's a balance to strike between protecting Americans' privacy and protecting our country's national security. I don't think we've struck that balance. I'm concerned about the lack of transparency of these programs. The American public can't be kept in the dark about the basic architecture of the programs designed to protect them."

 

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