Republican and Democratic lawmakers already are plotting ways to rein in the Obama administration’s mass collection of phone and Internet data, after a rapid-fire series of disclosures about the program set off privacy alarms.
“This is a dragnet,” Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., told Fox News on Friday.
The latest development, as reported by The Guardian newspaper, is that the British government has also been secretly gathering intelligence from U.S. Internet companies via the U.S. National Security Agency data-mining project. That project, along with reports about a secret court order allowing the government to collect phone records for millions of Verizon customers, triggered a renewed debate this week over whether Americans are trading too much privacy for a sense of security.
President Obama, speaking publicly for the first time on the controversy, said Friday that the programs have made a difference in tracking terrorists and are not tantamount to “Big Brother.”
Obama acknowledged that the U.S. government is collecting reams of phone records, including phone numbers and the duration of calls, but said this does not include listening to calls or gathering the names of callers.