Bipartisan Backlash Grows Against Domestic Surveillance

James Risen
New York Times
July 18, 2013

nsa-squareThe Obama administration faced a growing Congressional backlash against the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance operations on Wednesday, as lawmakers from both parties called for the vast collection of private data on millions of Americans to be scaled back.

During a sometimes contentious hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, Republicans and Democrats told administration officials that they believed the government had exceeded the surveillance authorities granted by Congress, and warned that they were unlikely to be reauthorized in the future.

Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, said that no one in Congress believed that the counterterrorism laws enacted since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were meant to allow for the collection of phone records of virtually everyone in America.

“The government is stockpiling sensitive personal data on a grand scale,” said Representative Ted Deutch, Democrat of Florida. “Intelligence officers, contractors and personnel only need a rubber-stamp warrant from the FISA court to then learn virtually everything there is to know about an American citizen,” he said, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

While administration officials defended the surveillance during the hearing, several lawmakers said that the data collection was unsustainable, and that Congress would move to either revoke the legislative authorization for the bulk collection now or at least refuse to renew it when it expires in 2015. Mr. Sensenbrenner interrupted James Cole, a deputy attorney general, to say, “Unless you realize you’ve got a problem, that is not going to be renewed.”

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