White House: NSA seizing phone records has gone on for years

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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White House spokesman Josh Earnest defended the administration’s ongoing tracking of domestic phone calls in a conversation with reporters Thursday.

The surveillance is allowed by a “robust legal regime” that reviews the use of the government powers under the Patriot Act “to ensure that they comply with the Constitution,” Earnest claimed, according to a White House pool report.

“Authorities that are referenced by this reported order are something that have been in place for a number of years now,” Earnest continued.

He declined to answer several questions about the specifics of the surveillance.

Earnest also deflected a question about whether President Barack Obama approved of the surveillance that is conducted in his administration.

“This strict regime reflects the president’s desire to strike the right balance between protecting our national security and protecting constitutional rights and civil liberties,” he said, without describing the protections for Americans, or the system’s ability to track terrorists and their supporters.

However, said Earnest, the surveillance dispute has not distracted Obama from other priorities, including passage of the far-reaching immigration bill.

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