Now that the world knows about the massive National Security Agency telephone and Internet surveillance, as well as the ex-CIA worker who leaked the information to the Guardian, attention turns back to our public servants within the beltway and the question of what they knew about these programs and when.
“Now, the programs that have been discussed over the last couple of days in the press are secret in the sense that they're classified, but they're not secret in the sense that, when it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program," President Barack Obama told reporters last Friday. "With respect to all these programs, the relevant intelligence committees are fully briefed on these programs.”
Republicans and even fellow Democrats have challenged the President on this notion.
On ABC 'This Week' Sunday, progressive Democrat Rep. Keith Ellison said Congress knew "almost nothing" about the NSA Prism program.
"I'm allowed to see certain things, and they tell us it's available if you make time at certain times and places to go see it, but the fact is, no, I'm not aware of the program that was revealed," Ellison said. "I had no notice. It's a fiction that everybody in Congress knew."
Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon told MSNBC the president is wrong.
“It’s not something that’s briefed outside the Intelligence Committee,” Merkley told MSNBC. “I had to get special permission to find out about the program.”
In wake of the reports on massive surveillance, Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has introduced legislation titled the “Fourth Amendment Restoration Act” designed to “stop the National Security Agency from spying on citizens of the United States and for other purposes.” The bill would require the federal government to obtain a warrant before searching Americans’ phone records.
“I’m going to be seeing if I can challenge this at the Supreme Court level,” Paul said of the NSA policy on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m going to be asking all the Internet providers and all of the phone companies: Ask your customers to join me in a class action lawsuit. If we get 10 million Americans saying we don’t want our phone records looked at then maybe someone will wake up and things will change in Washington.”
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