White House officials are trying to defend their formerly secret surveillance of many Americans’ cellphone conversations, claiming that conversations aren’t being recorded.
“On its face, the order reprinted in the article does not allow the government to listen in on anyone’s telephone calls,” the official told Politico.
Hill Democrats say they want more information about the surveillance.
“I think [officials] have an obligation to respond immediately,” Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden said on CNN.
Officials in Bush’s administration say Obama is validating Bush’s policies.
“Drone strikes. Wiretaps. Gitmo. O is carrying out Bush’s 4th term,” said a 9:10 a.m. tweet from Ari Fleischer, a former Bush spokesman.
“Yet he attacked Bush 4 violating Constitution. #hypocrisy,” he added.
“And just to be clear & so silent liberals understand, I support President O’s anti-terror actions. They’re bi-partisan now,” Fleischer said in a second tweet.
The administration’s extensive surveillance of phone conversations by Verizon customers is likely intended to detect U.S.-based jihadis who are communicating with supporters overseas and in the United States.
By using computers to track who talks to whom, dubbed “traffic analysis,” intelligence experts can link known jihadis with known or suspected supporters in the growing population of Muslim immigrants in the United States.
The program apparently is not trying to listen to actual conversations.
Under federal law, such wiretapping requires a different set of court approvals. It is also very expensive and labor-intensive.
That’s the defense initially offered by the White House. “The information acquired does not include the content of any communications or the name of any subscriber. It relates exclusively to metadata, such as a telephone number or the length of a call,” the official told Politico.
The far-reaching surveillance was exposed by an article in the left-wing British newspaper, the Guardian, and sharply contrasts with the presidents’s campaign-trail criticism of anti-jihad measures by President George W. Bush.
“I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining the constitution and our freedom,” he declared in an August 2007 speech.
“That means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens, no more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime,” he said at the speech, titled “The War We need to Win.”
“No more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war [and] no more ignoring the law when it is convenient,” he said to the audience at thew Wilson Center.
“That is not who we are and it is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists,” Obama said.
In this case, Obama’s use of “terrorists” likely referred to Islamic jihadis motivated by Islamic ideology.
“The [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance] court works. The separation of powers works. Our Constitution works,” Obama continued.
“We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to whims of stubborn rulers and that justice is not arbitrary. This administration is acting like violating civil liberties the way to enhance our security. It is not. There no shortcuts to protecting America.”