Top spy lawyers reject end to massive data collections
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration's top national security lawyers on Monday shunned the idea that the government should stop collecting copies of every American's telephone records every day.
The lawyers told an independent oversight board that it would lose valuable time if each time it began a terror investigation it had to seek the private billing records from individual phone companies.
They told the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board during a rare public hearing that a secret overseas Internet data-gathering program exposed last week was not an attempt to evade scrutiny by the federal intelligence court that supervises such operations. Top officials of Google and Yahoo criticized the program, in which the National Security Agency reportedly tapped into fiber-optic cables that funnel the data overseas. The government did not dispute that it tapped the cables overseas for Internet traffic but said it wasn't doing so to avoid legal restrictions.
Much of the board's session with government lawyers dealt with congressional proposals that would shift retention of phone and Internet records to private companies, instead of storing them at the National Security Agency.
The lawyers warned that the government's ability to conduct counter-terrorism investigations would be hampered by the loss of its data collections.
If Congress were to shut down the government's collection of phone records, which it has been secretly doing since 2006, “we wouldn't be able to see the patterns that the NSA's programs provide us,” said Patrick Kelley, acting general counsel of the FBI. Kelley added that the FBI would not be able to weed out significant phone data if it did not have the NSA's huge data bank to tap into and would lose valuable time if it had to instead seek the data from individual phone companies.
Robert Litt, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said the White House is considering keeping copies of the records for fewer than five years and may reduce the types of information that it searches.
Eric Schmidt, Google's chairman, told CNN he was shocked by the latest revelations. Schmidt described the operation as “perhaps a violation of law but certainly a violation of mission.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Despite U.S. dollars and bombs, effort failing to squash ISIS
- Global lion population falling primarily because of loss of habitat, experts say
- Feds accuse Philadelphia congressman Fattah of corruption
- VA whistle-blowers aghast
- Fetal parts in Planned Parenthood lab shown in 4th video
- Feds eye use of federal dollars for ads for for-profit colleges
- Christian college in Illinois to stop providing health care over Obamacare
- Hope dims for Fla. teens lost at sea
- University of New Hampshire language guide panned
- Highway bill on Obama’s desk extends funding 3 months
- Piece of plant found on island on way to France for analysis