Biden in 2006: ‘Don’t count me in’ on trusting NSA phone call surveillance

Jeff Poor Media Reporter
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Back in 2006, in an appearance on CBS’s “The Early Show,” then-Democratic Delaware Sen. Joe Biden railed against the controversial National Security Administration program to monitor domestic phone calls.

Biden likened the program to blind faith in giving up personal financial information.

“I don’t think it passes the test, but it clearly doesn’t pass the test of two existing statutes that say you can’t do these kinds of things, forgetting the fourth amendment,” Biden said on CBS’s May 12, 2006 “The Early Show.”

“And, Harry [Smith], the bottom line here is: Here you have the president of the United States making a judgment that’s not reviewable by the courts and not reviewable by the Congress, and we’re supposed to say OK, and they tell us — it’s a little bit like what would happen if the banks turned over all your checking records, without your name, but gave the checking account number and every single purchase you made and pattern of your behavior — and then you were told, ‘Don’t worry, they — that’s not invasion of your privacy.’”

Biden, who as vice president has been quiet on the recent revelations about NSA seizure of phone records from major providers, then made the same argument many are making today — that seizing records of calls made, even without listening to the specific calls, can be an invasion of privacy.

“Harry, I don’t have to listen to your phone calls to know what you’re doing,” Biden said. “If I know every single phone call you made, I’m able to determine every single person you talk to, I can get a pattern about your life that is very, very intrusive. And the real question here is: What do they do with this information that they collect that does not have anything to do with al Qaeda? There’s a whole deal when you talk about this kind of stuff, where the — under the law they’re supposed to demonstrate that they’re getting rid of and not keeping any extraneous information that they pick up on wiretaps and/or pick up in sweeps like this. And the president’s saying–I think I wrote down — he said, `this is not mining or trolling.’ If it’s true that 200 million Americans’ phone calls were monitored, in terms of not listening to what they said but to whom they spoke and who spoke to them, I don’t know, the Congress should investigate this.”

Biden told “The Early Show” host Harry Smith that he did not care to put trust in then-President George W. Bush and then-Vice President Dick Cheney.

“We have — no one’s arguing whether or not you have the right to go out and tap and go and do everything you need to do to track down al Qaida. That’s not the question here. Years ago, Harry, I was one of those guys that co-sponsored the bill called FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Everyone I’ve spoken to, who’s been briefed on this matter, says that everything that they want to do to deal with al Qaida is able to be done under FISA and maybe with a small amendment to FISA. But this idea that no court will review, no Congress will know and we’re going to trust the president and the vice president of the United States, that they’re doing the right thing, don’t count me in on that.”

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