DOJ Admits That NSA Collection Of Phone Records 'Probably' Sweeps Up Congress As Well
from the but-of-course dept
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.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:
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."
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.