The Largest Personal Data Collection in the World
The government has abruptly ended an inquiry into the warrantless eavesdropping program because the National Security Agency refused to grant Justice Department lawyers the necessary security clearance to probe the matter."We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans. The government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval. The privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities."
-Bush defending his illegal wiretapping program:
USA TODAY reported in today's editions that AT&T Corp., Verizon Communications Inc., and BellSouth Corp. telephone companies have turned over records of tens of millions of their customers' phone calls to the NSA since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The newspaper cited anonymous sources it said had direct knowledge of the arrangement.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats demanded answers from the Bush administration about the USA TODAY report.
"It is our government, it's not one party's government. It's America's government. Those entrusted with great power have a duty to answer to Americans what they are doing," said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said he would call the phone companies to appear before the panel "to find out exactly what is going on."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she had previously been briefed by the administration on "some" of the domestic data collection program, but said she still finds it "alarming." Pelosi said she is going to call on House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., to "ask him if we can immediately begin a review of this in a very calm way, in a very non-partisan way -- this is about the safety of the American people, but as we protect and defend the American people we must protect and defend the Constitution."
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, asked "why are the telephone companies not protecting their customers? I think they have a social responsibility to people who do business with them to protect our privacy as long there isn't some suspicion that we're a terrorist or a criminal or something."