DOJ Admits That NSA Collection Of Phone Records 'Probably' Sweeps Up Congress As Well

from the but-of-course dept

Last month, Senator Bernie Sanders asked a simple question to the NSA: in collecting all those phone records, does that include the phone records of members of Congress (including both their personal and work phones)? The NSA's response was that "Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons" -- but since the data collection covers all US persons, it was a basic admission that, yes, of course the NSA is sweeping up their phone records as well.

That issue came up again during this week's House Judiciary Committee Hearings, in which some members of Congress finally got to ask the question live to Deputy Attorney General James Cole, who more or less admitted that Congress's information is collected as well:
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, began by asking Peter Swire, a member of the president's handpicked surveillance review board, whether lawmakers' numbers are included in the agency's phone-records sweeps. Swire protested that he was not a government official and couldn't best answer the question, but said he was unaware of any mechanism that "scrubbed out" member phone numbers from the agency's data haul.

Lofgren's time expired and Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, then put the question to Cole.

"Mr. Cole, do you collect 202, 225, and four digits afterwards?" Issa asked, referring to the prefixes used to call congressional offices.

"We probably do, Mr. Congressman," Cole responded. "But we're not allowed to look at any of those, however, unless we have reasonable, articulable suspicion that those numbers are related to a known terrorist threat."
And while Representatives like Pete King have argued in the past that the NSA should spy on Congress because they might be talking to terrorists, Issa pointed out that he sometimes has perfectly legitimate reasons for talking to those who might be in the NSA's target list:
Issa rejoindered that he had been in touch with the deputy prime minister of Lebanon after accusations emerged that the official had given money to Hezbollah, warning that a senior member of Congress was only two degrees of separation from terrorists.
Slowly, but surely, it appears that more and more people in Congress are recognizing that the NSA's activities are incredibly broad in their overreach.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    BentFranklin (profile), Feb 5th, 2014 @ 10:55am

    Simple: Just have a known terrorist call Ron Wyden's office. One hop!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Feb 5th, 2014 @ 11:10am

    Re:

    King, Rogers, Feinstien, I'm sure at least one of them have called his office in the past.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    AricTheRed (profile), Feb 5th, 2014 @ 11:17am

    I may have found an error in the stoy

    "Slowly, but surely, it appears that more and more people in Congress are recognizing that the NSA's activities are incredibly broad in their overreach."

    Given all that has come to be done about spying on every American the above quote sould perhaps read as...

    "Slowly, and just maybe, but perhaps not, and who knows if they'll do anyhing about it..."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 11:18am

    "Slowly, but surely," -- No, Mike it's PR played out SLOWLY as possible. There's NO change now or coming.

    Sheesh. Anyone can get the scope of the surveillance in five minutes. All the rest of the time since June -- chosen solely because then no longer publicly deniable -- has been spent in useless political babble diversions like this.

    out_of_the_blue: the only commenter mentioned in advance of posting! Thanks for the heads up, kids! It's SWELL!

    07:17:23[i-290-5]

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 11:27am

    Presumably, this would also include all the members of the NSA too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 11:30am

    They should starting asking the REAL questions, like what is NSA's purpose, really, and why do they need so much money if there are so few results related to terrorism, like this guy once did in the 70's (must read):

    http://pando.com/2014/02/04/the-first-congressman-to-battle-the-nsa-is-dead-no-one-noticed-no- one-cares/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Gwiz (profile), Feb 5th, 2014 @ 11:36am

    Re: "Slowly, but surely," -- No, Mike it's PR played out SLOWLY as possible. There's NO change now or coming.

    out_of_the_blue: the only commenter mentioned in advance of posting!


    Not true. Plenty of other trolls have had "in before" comments made about them. darryl, Angry Dude and bob are a few that come to mind.

    All it means is that your trolling has become predictable.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Beta (profile), Feb 5th, 2014 @ 11:36am

    some animals are more equal than others

    "Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons."

    That is exactly as it ought to be.

    On the one hand, I'm annoyed that these Reps would ask such questions, as if the civil rights of members of Congress were different from those of any other citizens.

    On the other hand, if this revelation makes Congress sit up and pay attention to these abuses, then I'm for it.

    Gripping hand: they'll probably rush some new rules into effect, exempting themselves from such surveillance, then go back to business as usual.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 11:43am

    Re: Re:

    Add Clapper, Alexander, & Hayden as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 11:49am

    "Slowly, but surely," -- No, Mike it's PR played out SLOWLY as possible. There's NO change now or coming.

    This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it -- Now you don't have to! Though the kids try to censor.

    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 11:18am

    Sheesh. Anyone can get the scope of the surveillance in five minutes. All the rest of the time since June -- chosen solely because then no longer publicly deniable -- has been spent in useless political babble diversions like this.


    out_of_the_blue: the only commenter mentioned in advance of posting! Thanks for the heads up, kids! It's SWELL!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 11:56am

    I am waiting for the headline "Members of congress outraged at NSA spying when they realize they have only the same privacy protections that all other US persons have"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Feb 5th, 2014 @ 11:57am

    And now they are listening to everything they say

    You know, that girlfriend / mistress you have stashed away in Virginia Mr. Congressperson? Well, about that...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 11:58am

    Re: some animals are more equal than others

    Maybe. But with the outrage from the public growing louder and louder, supporting these sorts of programs are becoming politically more and more toxic for them which then also makes a political opportunity for those willing to oppose them. Given some of the statements by some of them (eg. Sensenbrenner's statement about how they were possibly going to take away Section 215 altogether) we will have to see. One thing is sure. They cannot simply slip stuff through and hope no one notices nearly as easy as they could in the past. Too many people are watching and information travels too fast these days for that to happen as easily as it used to.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 12:00pm

    And congress will act swiftly. Look for the forthcoming bill titled "protection of congressional records act" which orders all government and private agencies to scrub all records of all activity of members of congress.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 12:00pm

    Re: some animals are more equal than others

    They are likely to exempt DC numbers from collection, if at either end of a call, confirming DC as a terrorist haven.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 12:04pm

    now they are finding out that they are probably being targeted as well as everyone else, everywhere, not just in the USA, it becomes a different story! previously, as with anything and everything else that affects everyone else anywhere except those in Congress, no one gave a flyin' fuck! funny how the attitude changes when those not giving a fuck find they are being just as screwed as the plebs, eh?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 12:24pm

    "Slowly, but surely," -- No, Mike it's PR played out SLOWLY as possible. There's NO change now or coming.

    This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it -- Now you don't have to! Though the kids try to censor.

    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 11:18am

    Sheesh. Anyone can get the scope of the surveillance in five minutes. All the rest of the time since June -- chosen solely because then no longer publicly deniable -- has been spent in useless political babble diversions like this.

    out_of_the_blue: the only commenter mentioned in advance of posting! Thanks for the heads up, kids! It's SWELL!


    Yes, kids, I may keep this up...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    icon
    krolork (profile), Feb 5th, 2014 @ 12:32pm

    We need a revolution.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 12:32pm

    Re: some animals are more equal than others

    I'm partly just playing devil's advocate here, but part of me does feel like Congress should have more privacy protections than the average US person. Separation of powers is important.

    If the NSA spies on me (which they probably do), collects compromising information about me (which they might), and uses it against me (which they haven't, as far as I know), it sucks to be me. I could be blackmailed, imprisoned, or in the worst-case scenario I could get black-bagged and taken to Syria to be tortured. While this is a serious problem, and a grotesque abuse of everything our country ought to stand for, it doesn't directly compromise our entire political system.

    If the NSA spies on a Congressperson (which they apparently do), and uses the information against that Congressperson, the consequences for the system as a whole are much more severe. What happens if the executive branch starts using the information to blackmail dissenting members of Congress? Or leaking compromising information about opposing candidates to the press? That sort of thing will break the entire democratic system, and destroy our government in a way that screwing me over would not.

    A major trigger for the whole Church Committee was when the Watergate scandal broke wide open. On the most fundamental level, a sitting president abused his powers to spy on the members of the opposition. If the Watergate burglaries had been successful, it's pretty clear that the CRP would have taken any intel they gathered and used it against the Democratic party.

    We've already seen plenty of leaked evidence that the NSA is abusing their power. Thankfully, so far the abuses that we've seen haven't been politically motivated -- they'll happily listen in on phone sex and spy on foreign companies, but they haven't shown any desire to keep the Democrats in power, or to keep minorities from getting civil liberties. If that changes, and the NSA starts trying to use its power politically, we're going to have a problem that makes all the current abuses seem insignificant.

    So, really...I'm happy to see increased privacy protections for members of Congress. Also for members of the judiciary and for any and all political or judicial candidates. I'd like increased protection for everybody else, too, but I don't think it's quite as critical to maintaining a functional democracy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    Gwiz (profile), Feb 5th, 2014 @ 12:32pm

    Re: "Slowly, but surely," -- No, Mike it's PR played out SLOWLY as possible. There's NO change now or coming.

    Yes, kids, I may keep this up...


    And it will be as pointless as your comments.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 12:51pm

    Re:

    It is only slightly suspicious, considering his age, and his the non suspicious way he died.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    beltorak (profile), Feb 5th, 2014 @ 1:21pm

    Re: Re: some animals are more equal than others

    I want to point out that you appear to be close to falling into a false dichotomy: would you rather the public gets spied on, or government officials?

    The lesser of two evils is, by definition, still evil. If tight privacy controls are good for congress, there is no reason that we shouldn't get the same levels of protection. So it's somewhat reassuring that congress has not gotten special exemptions and privileges, but it's still outrageous that they only seemed to care when it was demonstrated that it affected them personally.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 1:30pm

    Re:

    When are we getting that "sad but true" button?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    AricTheRed (profile), Feb 5th, 2014 @ 1:31pm

    Re: WOLVERINES!!!

    krolork,
    As you seem to be the foremost planner and advocate of the upcoming revolution, I'd be interested in sharing my Ideas with you as to how we could effectively utilize some of the more prominent members of the techdirt community to further our cause of freedom for We The People

    Idea #1 begin a psyops campaign to convince OOTB to lead the vanguard of the revolution, to be one of the first droplets of the ever increasing tide to wash over the oppressors' forces.

    The revolution could be over before anyone realizes and then everyone here will owe our newly re-gained freedom from tyranny to OOTB, I think it could be a win-win.

    Want to know more?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    jackn, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 1:58pm

    Re:

    and, isn't it really the NSA that are the terrorists? Are they not creating terror for the whole world?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 2:26pm

    They shouldnt even have the "authority" to ----STORE---- it

    Twats, yeah, TWATS.......STORE THAT!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 3:24pm

    "Slowly, but surely," -- No, Mike it's PR played out SLOWLY as possible. There's NO change now or coming.

    Sheesh. Anyone can get the scope of the surveillance in five minutes. All the rest of the time since June -- chosen solely because then no longer publicly deniable -- has been spent in useless political babble diversions like this.

    out_of_the_blue: the only commenter mentioned in advance of posting! Thanks for the heads up, kids! It's SWELL!


    Yes, kids, I may keep this up...

    Techdirt fanboys are so feeble they can't stand skipping over a bit of text! -- Are these leaders against the surveillance state? Or just weenies pretending to be pirates?
    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140204/07522126085/new-zealand-spy-agency-deleted-evidence-about- its-illegal-spying-kim-dotcom.shtml#c341 (197 of 198)

    11:24:34[m-577-7]

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Feb 5th, 2014 @ 4:06pm

    Re:

    http://pando.com/2014/02/04/the-first-congressman-to-battle-the-nsa-is-dead-no-one-noticed-no- one-cares/

    Bah, that article was terrible. There was major coverage in nearly every major publication about Pike's death, and because one reporter missed it he thinks everyone else did too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    alternatives(), Feb 5th, 2014 @ 5:01pm

    Re: Re:

    My self-imposed media bubble I didn't see anything about it 'till the pando.com story.

    It should have had MORE coverage than it did.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 5:09pm

    Your headline wait

    will be granted by the Onion.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    rapnel, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 5:11pm

    I reckon

    I reckon we've already got ourselves a revolution. The people, the public, simply haven't acknowledged the ever increasing rate of incursion.

    Government, as we've all come to know and love, is running head to head, both against and with the public. The public, armed with communications, is facing off with a particular and now peculiar branch of government armed with secrecy.

    The irony is in the fact that the secrecy is meant to secure money before liberty and justice for all.

    I reckon, I reckon.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    icon
    art guerrilla (profile), Feb 5th, 2014 @ 5:15pm

    Re: Re: WOLVERINES!!!

    does it involve OOTB and a vest festooned with C4 ? ? ?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2014 @ 6:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: some animals are more equal than others

    Eh....I'm not saying that private citizens shouldn't have higher levels of privacy protection. I think we should. I think that the current NSA spying violates the Constitutional rights of every American citizen.

    What I am trying to say is that allowing the executive branch to spy on the legislative branch is also a violation of the Constitution, in a way that allowing them to spy on private citizens is not. Obviously, spying on Congress will violate their 4th amendment rights, just as it violates yours when the NSA spies on you. But spying on you doesn't break the doctrine of separation of powers, and spying on Congress does. While there's all sorts of reasons why separation of powers is a good idea, one simple reason is that the NSA couldn't get away with this sort of bullshit if the balance hadn't already shifted away from the legislative/judicial branches and towards the executive.

    I'm personally outraged by what the NSA has been doing, and it's fairly pathetic that some members of Congress don't seem to care. Lofgren and Issa, though, have both spoken up against the NSA's spying program long before this. Their line of questioning seems designed to raise additional issues with the NSA's programs. For that, I give them credit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    BeeAitch (profile), Feb 5th, 2014 @ 6:28pm

    Re: Re: some animals are more equal than others

    They cannot simply slip stuff through and hope no one notices nearly as easy as they could in the past. Too many people are watching and information travels too fast these days for that to happen as easily as it used to.


    ...and then they go to the end-around, as with TPP. "It's so transparent you can't see it!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    btrussell (profile), Feb 6th, 2014 @ 4:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: some animals are more equal than others

    You have it backwards. We need to spy on our reps because otherwise we don't have a clue as to what they are doing. You said it yourself, wtf can you do compared to what they can do? No need to watch you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    btrussell (profile), Feb 6th, 2014 @ 4:42am

    "Slowly, but surely, it appears that more and more people in Congress are recognizing that the NSA's activities are incredibly broad in their overreach."

    It only took what, 6 months, for them to figure out they were americans with american phone numbers. Now they are upset since "they" are included with "us," instead of getting their usual exemptions to laws they make that everyone else but them must obey.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Feb 6th, 2014 @ 5:17am

    Re: Re: Re: WOLVERINES!!!

    Please, please tell me it does...!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Feb 6th, 2014 @ 5:59am

    Re: Re: "Slowly, but surely," -- No, Mike it's PR played out SLOWLY as possible. There's NO change now or coming.

    Just don't reply man. If he cums from troll-spamming sites let him have his private fun alone. Honestly I was with Mike once that he should block nobody but this one has gone the path of a complete moron. Mike seems to be a better person than I am for I'd have set up a system to show his comments only to himself a good while ago.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Clueless Buffoon, Feb 6th, 2014 @ 7:00am

    Re: "Slowly, but surely," -- No, Mike it's PR played out SLOWLY as possible. There's NO change now or coming.

    Silly blue, it's not censorship if it can be easily accessed by a click of the mouse. If it was actually censored your comment would be wiped, not hidden. I for one always read your comments... for the entertainment value.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2014 @ 7:45am

    out_of_the_blue just loathes it when due process is enforced.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Feb 6th, 2014 @ 8:40am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Or you should expand your bubble!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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