Bush administration defends legality of phone data collection

[JURIST] Stephen Hadley [official profile], President Bush’s national security advisor, defended [PDF transcript] the recently-exposed government program to collect data on private phone calls [JURIST report] Sunday on CBS's Face the Nation, saying that it was legal and narrowly tailored. He said that the program does not involve listening to individual phone conversations, since its aim is to reveal terrorist-linked patterns in the phone calls. His comments followed the President's repeated [JURIST report] insistence in his Saturday radio address [transcript] that "the government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval. We are not trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans."

Qwest was the only major telephone company that refused to provide data [JURIST report] for the National Security Agency [official website], but the US Senator and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] Arlen Specter [official profile] has expressed concerns that the other phone companies may have been coerced into disclosure. Late last month, Specter said he would consider legislation to block funding to the NSA [JURIST report] for domestic wiretaps [JURIST news archive] if the Bush administration did not stop “walking all over Congress”, and has observed that the constitutionality of the program is yet to be determined.

The New York Times revealed Sunday that Vice President Dick Cheney and his legal advisor and current chief of staff David S. Addington argued in the wake of Sept. 11 that the NSA should be able to read emails and listen in on domestic phone calls without warrants [JURIST report]. The International Herald Tribune has more.

 

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