May 15, 2006 2:33 PM PDT

GOP skepticism over NSA program widens

WASHINGTON--A Republican senator on Monday questioned whether the federal government should be using its resources for large-scale data-mining efforts such as those associated with the National Security Agency's wiretapping program.

Speaking at a privacy seminar here at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire said the latest revelations that the nation's three biggest phone companies have delivered call records on potentially millions of Americans to the NSA raise concerns about the government's encroachment into private citizens' lives, even if the actions were legal.

"The important question is whether or not this is activity that we think will yield a good result and whether we think it's activity in which the federal government should be engaged," Sununu said.

Voicing similar concerns about the FBI data-mining system once known as Carnivore, Sununu deemed the value of such databases "certainly untested" and said they were potentially ripe for "misuse."

"That's the history of the federal government, is that once you create a tool, create a database, create a program, oftentimes it then begins to seek out new uses, new opportunities, new activities that weren't part of its original charter," he said.

When speaking about the NSA program, Sununu chose his words carefully, saying he didn't doubt the accuracy of the Bush administration's descriptions of the closely guarded program and even going so far as to say he believed the appropriate congressional leadership had been adequately briefed on the matter.

In that sense he seemed to take a more moderate stance than his colleague, Sen. Arlen Specter, who has been perhaps the most vocal Republican to question the Bush administration's actions. Public criticism of the program has been limited largely to Democrats.

Asked whether he expected Congress to take action against AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon Communications for reportedly turning over records to the feds, Sununu said he didn't think the companies themselves deserved the blame. (Specter, meanwhile, has vowed to call in the company executives for questioning.)

"Again, that's not because I think that the program is one that should receive support without question," Sununu said, "but because I understand that the federal government has a great deal of power, is viewed as being responsible in this area, and for a person in a position of responsibility to comply with that is understandable."

Sununu said he saw no reason to believe that the information had even been obtained illegally by the government, noting that they could have "easily" used National Security Letters under the Patriot Act to obtain phone records. The controversial NSLs compel communication service providers to provide records about individuals but do not require the use of a court warrant.

The real question, Sununu said, is, "Do you want (the government) to be creating these large, broad databases? Do you see a very specific value to doing so? That's where I begin to get queasy."

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11 comments

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NSLs Easy?
"...they could have "easily" used National Security Letters under the Patriot Act to obtain phone records."

If it was so easy, why not do it and avoid the negative ramifications of not doing so (especially after the Quest lawyers considered the request illegal)?

mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Reply Link Flag
NSLs are not easy
> If it was so easy, why not do it?

Because it is not easy. The senator is lying.

From the ACLU site: "Before the Patriot Act, the FBI could use
NSLs to obtain records concerning suspected terrorists and
spies. The Patriot Act amended the law to allow the use of NSLs
to obtain information about anyone at all".

The NSL statute has been successfully challenged at least once
in court in 2004. So it is already on shakey ground at best when
used narrowly as intended. The FBI could not issue 10s or 100s
of millions of NSLs for every individual citizen known to own a
phone. Nor could they issue one blanket one that simply
specified "everyone with a phone". It could not possibly
withstand judicial scrutiny when used to go on a widescale
domestic fishing operation that has as its target "everyone with a
phone". Unless of course the judiciary is stacked with
conservative partisans. But that is a different issue to be
lamented years from now.
Posted by Mystigo (183 comments )
Link Flag
Republicans -- Help Us Save US from YOU
People of good conscience, regardless of party -- we must Remove
the Cancer. Get Cheney First! Fitzgerald will take him down over
the Plame affair. That leaves the president, who should be
impeached for each of his illegal power grabs. Where are the
patriots when you need them?
Posted by JackfromBerkeley (136 comments )
Reply Link Flag
We're Still Here
We are here...on the internet. They fear us (believe me), and
want to regulate speech on the internet because it is much more
difficult to control than the media. What do I mean? I'm talking
about Net Neutrality! I'm not one for govt. regulations, but I'm
all for keeping the internet free from corporate (govt.)
"prioritizing" of content. I urge all readers to fight this battle for
true freedom. Oh, and vote your HEART! Don't listen to them
say you are wasting your vote, it's a scam to get you to think
that there is a difference between democrat and
republican...there isn't... just the rhetoric is different!
VOTE LP www.lp.org
Posted by robot999 (109 comments )
Link Flag
How many lies does to take to get impeached.
Clinton told a fib about having sex, or rather he said he didn't think that particular act was sex and oh well whatever.

Bush has a list of lies to Congress as long as his pseudo homeland's Great Wall of China.

Look, everyone knows terrorists don't use landlines, they use pre-paid cellphones, they're untrackable, untraceable and unwiretappable.

So all this crap about needing this or that for national security is just another of Comrade Bush's lies to the American people.

My suggestion is rather than investigate the NSA thing (they'll just kill it by denying clearance to the relevant paperwork anyway, like they did with the Justice Department's wire tap investigation), why not find out how a team of ex-Soviets in collusion with Red China have managed to replace our entire Administration and the nation's Attorny General with communist clones..

Oh well, I suppose the alternative would be to let Bush know this was not what we meant when we asked for more intelligence in the White House..
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Legal, Moral?
Look guys and gals. I keep hearing that this "spying" is LEGAL!
OMG, do you realize what this means!?!? In my mind it means
that our constitution is being used as toilet paper by the traitors
in D.C. The bottom line is the Traitor Act (Patriot) is
unconstitutional. The 4th amendment (along with others like
the 1st and 2nd) are and have been under attack! Why can't
others see this outrage. Not many people seem to care? Heck,
most people have not even "analyzed" the events of 911 to see
what really happend! I'm seriously considering leaving the US
out of FEAR! Seriously what is next, tanks in the streets?
Sorry for the rant, but this is getting crazy! IMPEACH BUSH
NOW!
And vote LP www.lp.org
Posted by robot999 (109 comments )
Reply Link Flag
a meek response so far
It will take much more than a few Congressmen speaking out to
scuttle the Federal government's domestic spying programs. Is
America sufficiently outraged to take action?
Posted by CBSTV (780 comments )
Reply Link Flag
nothing new
this is nothing new. its been done before.

"The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation."
- Adolf Hitler

i'm sick of you cowards letting the Bushies scare you into complying with his Twerror alert BLue-Greens and theats that an attack might happen today, maybe, kinda...

have some respect for yourself. whats worse: the chance that another 3000 out of 26million people might die or living in a world akin to a bad sci-fi movie.?

the sickening part is that Bush is a moron. no one with his limited intelligence should have the final say on what happens in this country. its scary that he's the only person between Cheney and world domination. maybe after we've lost enough troops, and arrested enough innocent people and TORTURED them, you silly bastards will step up.

i've been to Iraq - their phones arent taped.
Posted by davaal (74 comments )
Reply Link Flag
CNET liberal bias
Has CNet become yet another liberally biased news organization pushing special interest stories as if they were "news"? The vast majority of right thinking Americans fully support the limited domestic surveillance that is being used to identify and capture terrorists. A couple of extremist members of the GOP hardly discredit this important work.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
liberal media bias a fascist myth
Fascists have the media here in Amerika. It's the billionaire's boys
club. Freedom of the press only exists in the UK anymore. I like
The Economist weekly and the Financial Times daily newspapers.
They are both as unbiased as can be found on this planet at this
time. Hooray for them.
Posted by JackfromBerkeley (136 comments )
Link Flag
Time to grow up
Uhm, that old STUPID argument of a liberal media has been dead and buried for about 15 years. There is NO liberal mainstream media. In fact, the media these days is very conservative, sensationalistic, but conservative. Where were all you (liberal media) whiners when the media was more concerned about telling us who was giving Pres. Clinton a BJ instead of actually reporting on the work he did in office.

If we had a liberal media, the press would have been asking Pres. Bush *** he was thinking on Day 1 of talk about Iraq, but no, they just towed the line. Didn't want to be called a commie by Bush.

There is no such thing as liberal MSM anymore, there are academic studies out there on the Net that prove this statement. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid, turn off Foxnews, and do some research of your own. You want to see liberal media, try following European news for a while.

In fact, why don't you read news from Europe, and from Asia, and from Al-Jezera, (the english version, which is seperate from the all arabic version). The more you read, the clearer the picture becomes.
Posted by bemenaker (438 comments )
Link Flag
 

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