Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday refused to answer whether the federal government has monitored phones belonging to members of Congress.
Holder was asked to provide assurances that no phones inside the Capitol or belonging to lawmakers were monitored, one day after the bombshell revelation that the government secretly collected the phone records of millions of Verizon customers inside the U.S.
“With all due respect, senator, I don’t think this is an appropriate setting for me to discuss that issue,” Holder said in response to a question from Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) during a previously scheduled Senate hearing to discuss the Justice Department’s budget. “I’d be more than glad to come back in an appropriate setting to discuss the issues you have raised.”
Kirk interjected that “the correct answer would be no, we stayed within our lane, and I assure you we did not spy on members of Congress.”
Holder did say that members of Congress were kept fully informed about the program to collect the phone records.
“Members of Congress have been fully briefed as these issues, these matters have been underway,” Holder said, adding that he wasn’t comfortable saying more in an unclassified setting.
That’s in line with comments earlier Thursday from Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that they were aware of what was happening.
“This is nothing new. This has been going on for seven years…every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this,” Chambliss said.
Graham said Americans’ phone records were swept up only to track people “suspected to be terrorists.”