Knoxville — English newspaper, The Guardian, broke the news today that the Obama administration is collecting phone record data from American customers of Verizon. Fellow Democrats Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Dave Loebsack are seeking answers.
The New York Times indicates that a secret court order, filed under the auspices of the Patriot Act, was disclosed Wednesday night. The Times goes on to report, "The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in April, directs a Verizon Communications subsidiary, Verizon Business Network Services, to turn over 'on an ongoing daily basis' to the National Security Agency all call logs 'between the United States and abroad' or 'wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.' The order does not apply to the content of the communications."
The situation is troubling to both Loebsack and Harkin.
“I do not know the details of the FISA order, however I’m troubled by what I have heard," Harkin said in a statement to the Journal-Express. "If reports are true, I am relieved to understand it does not include the content of any communication or the name of any Verizon subscriber. That said, I believe American citizens who have done nothing wrong rightly expect that when they are making a phone call, that information is not shared with the government. Also, if what is reported is true, I am greatly disturbed that such invasion of privacies could occur based on a secret court order with no public transparency. ”
Loebsack had similar comments.
"I care deeply about Americans' privacy and I care deeply about the ability to keep our country safe. The fact that the program did not differentiate between grandma and potential terrorists is what concerns me," Loebsack said. "It is essential that effective actions be taken to protect our country. But those actions must and can be balanced with robust protections for Americans' privacy. That is why I am deeply troubled by the apparent breadth of this program. In order to effectively protect our country, our law enforcement community must have the faith of the American people that their rights are being upheld and carefully guarded. The Administration must quickly explain to the American people why this program is being used and should come to Congress with necessary details and discuss the information that was gathered."
We reached out to Sen. Chuck Grassley. No comment has been received yet. When comment is received, and this story continues to develop, we will bring you more.
If you would like to share your thoughts with our Washington delegation, Harkin's office can be reached at 202-224-3254, Loebsack's office is (866) 914-IOWA and Grassley's office number is (202) 224-3744.