US lawmakers urge review of government surveillance activities

[JURIST] Several US lawmakers called Sunday for a review of the government's surveillance activity in light of recent reports revealing phone and Internet monitoring. Lawmakers have also called for a criminal investigation into the activities of Edward Snowden, who came forward [Guardian report] on Sunday as the whistleblower in the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] surveillance scandal. Snowden is a 29-year-old former CIA technical worker that accessed the surveillance files when he was contracted as a civilian to work on projects for the NSA. He stated in an interview with The Guardian that he released the material because he believed the surveillance violated the right to privacy. Congressman Peter King (R-NY) [official website] is now calling [press release] for the arrest of Snowden, who is now seeking asylum in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) [official website] is calling for lawmakers to amend the Patriot Act of 2001 [DOJ backgrounder], which is one of the statutes that empowered the NSA to take these measures.

On Wednesday of last week, The Guardian published [JURIST report] a top secret order [text] authorizing the NSA to collect data from Verizon customers, regardless of whether they were suspected of wrongdoing. The court order, granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) [Federal Judiciary Center backgrounder] to the FBI in April, required Verizon to turn over information about phone calls between the US and foreign countries and phone calls within the US. The order compels the production of metadata, including location, time and call duration, but does not include content of calls. The order is set to expire July 19. Also last week a secret program known as Prism [WP report] was revealed, which has reportedly given the government access to data from companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook.

 

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