Eric Holder Admits That, If It Wanted, NSA Could Collect Internet Searches & Emails Just Like Phone Metadata
from the no-constitutional-issue-at-all dept
During a recent House Judiciary Committee hearing concerning oversight, Rep. Zoe Lofgren decided to quiz Attorney General Eric Holder about the federal government’s surveillance efforts, starting off with a rather simple question. She notes that the bulk phone record collection program is considered to be legal by its supporters, based on Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows for the collection of “business records.” So, she wonders, is there any legal distinction between phone records and, say, internet searches or emails? In other words, does the DOJ believe that it would be perfectly legal for the US government to scoop up all your search records and emails without a warrant? Holder clearly does not want to answer the question, and first tries to answer a different question, concerning the bulk phone records program, and how the administration is supposedly committed to ending it. But eventually he’s forced to admit that there’s no legal distinction:
All along, this has been the problem with Section 215. When it first was discussed, it was often called the “library” provision, as the example that people talked about was using Section 215 to collect the records of what books someone checked out of the library. However, as the phone collection program showed, it’s been turned into something much, much broader. Fixing this interpretation is going to take a lot more than just ending one program. It requires changing what is allowed by Section 215.