– Republican and Democrat members of Congress have expressed deep scepticism about the US government’s bulk collection of American’s telephone records and have threatened not to renew the authority used to sanction a program described as “off the tracks legally”.
A congressional backlash appeared to be coalescing around the idea that the Obama administration’s interpretation of its powers far exceeded what members of Congress intended.
At a hearing of the House of Representatives judiciary committee on Wednesday, members of Congress pressed officials from the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to justify collecting and storing the communications records of vast numbers of Americans.
“This is unsustainable, it’s outrageous and must be stopped immediately,” the panel’s most senior Democrat, John Conyers said.
Congressman James Sensenbrenner, who sponsored the Patriot Act, warned the House might not renew the act’s Section 215, which gives the government its authority.
The sharp and sometimes angry questioning cane as the government faced legal challenges to its collection of “metadata”, that is, information about the numbers called by Americans, the date and time of the calls, and how long they lasted.
Intelligence officials insisted the program operated under tight guidelines, was overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and had been crucial to disrupting terrorist plots.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the NSA had been trying to make it seem like it peeked at the communications of a tiny subset of people, but it had, in fact, reviewed the communication patterns of millions of individuals.
The ACLU was on you more than 50 signatories of a letter to President Barack Obama and congressional leaders calling for more disclosure about the scale of surveillance requests to technology and telecommunications companies.
Legislators said the surveillance effort, disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, was too broad and intrusive.
“I think very clearly this program has gone off the tracks legally and needs to be reigned in,” Californian Democrat Zoe Lofgren said.
Deputy Attorney-General James Cole said the data did not include names or other identifying information, or the content of phone calls. He said the records were not protected by the Fourth Amendment.
Several members of Congress disagreed. “I maintain that the Forth Amendment, to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, means this metadata collected in such a super-aggregated fashion can amount to a Fourth Amendment violation before you do anything else,” Mr Conyers said – Sari Horwitz


About Jumpin' Jack Cash

Deep connections are the most important aspect of my existence. I don’t care if people don’t know what they want. I love books. I’m cynical of love stories, although I’m romantic. I adore gardens. I like women who challenge me. I love the rain as an excuse to stay inside and dream. I'm furiously impatient. If I ask you a question best to tell me the truth as I'm likely to already know the answer. I'm a carnivore. I continuously underestimate the magic of fresh flowers in my home. I love warm rain in the summer. My mood elevates to epic proportions when the sun shines. Tell me not to do something and I'll do it twice and take photos. Running is my antidepressant. I loathe lies. I rarely forgive a lie. Loyalty and honesty are my most noble virtues, and I value them more than anything in other people. I love to love, and am able to fall in love very quickly, although it's only ever happened once. I understood myself and fixed myself only after destroying myself. My greatest excitement comes from deliberately getting lost in foreign cities. I can be extremely loud and frighteningly silent. I hate insinuations. I love storms. Justice for all. I'm a proud man, but welcome the influence of the feminine soul. I have two sisters. I’m a dreamer. I’m a deep thinker. Don’t deal with guilt trips or drama that well. I'm extremely stubborn and persistent. I'm brilliant at keeping secrets. I love driving. I become absolutely and completely lost while watching a burning fire. When the toast pops from the toaster I’m never ready and shit myself. I play the guitar, but require much improvement. Solitude and warmth of the sun are perfect together. I’ve been married once and now divorced. I’m a music junkie. Chocolate mousse is the shit. I curse too much. I find it difficult to make friends. I spent four years as a firefighter. I’ve run my own company since 1991. Bright lights, big cities. I’ve been an executive producer of a feature film. Some people don’t care, and that’s the biggest let-down of the human race. There are cures and solutions for many evils, but no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings. The sound of the Italian language being spoken is as good as my favourite music. I hate corrupt cops. I relentlessly and passionately pursue anybody and anything that sets my soul on fire. I'm a dog lover, and all my dogs are considered family members. I have an obsession with photography. I have some close friends who are household names, but shall always remain anonymous. I’m crazy but not lazy. Losing a soulmate has hurt me badly. My two young sons are the nucleus of my universe. I love airports. I love freedom. If you are dishonest or disloyal, I can erase you from my life and memory immediately and permanently. I yearn to explore, dream about and discover as many friendships, deep connections and places, one possibly can in a lifetime.
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