GOP intel chair: Phone-record collection helped the feds stop a terrorist attack in the last few years

posted at 4:01 pm on June 6, 2013 by Allahpundit

Does this mean Obama’s going to defend the NSA’s policy rather than give one of his “I’m righteously outraged by my own policies” speeches? Because I kind of enjoy when he does his Hamlet shtick for the O-bot peanut gallery to remind them that he cares about civil liberties deep down as much as they do.

He’s at least going to give us a let-me-be-clear presser at which he refers to the security/liberty conundrum as a “false choice,” right?

Between Graham’s cri de coeur on behalf of records-snooping this morning and now this breadcrumb from Mike Rogers, O’s got bipartisan cover to go to the mat on behalf of his agency:

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) says that the National Security Agency program tracking Verizon telephone records helped thwart “a significant case” of terrorism in the United States “within the last few years.”

“Within the last few years, this program was used to stop a terrorist attack in the United States. We know that. It’s important. It fills in a little seam that we have,” Rogers told reporters Thursday. ”And it’s used to make sure that there is not an international nexus to any terrorism event if there may be one ongoing. So in that regard, it is a very valuable thing,” Rogers said.

When pressed later for more details, Rogers said the committee is “working on trying to get this declassified in a way that we can provide more information. We’re not there yet. But it was a significant case that happened within the last few years.”

The White House is also reportedly scrambling to declassify details about the NSA program, no doubt with an eye to highlighting its successes and not its excesses. And so the race is on: Will details about the thwarted terror attack be officially declassified before Obama’s inner circle leaks them to the Times to make him look good, the way they have with so many other national-security stories? Whichever way it shakes out, expect no DOJ investigation.

Needless to say, as a matter of political damage control, this is exactly the right way to handle the Guardian’s big NSA/Verizon scoop. Joshua Foust’s grumpy but entertaining post last night after the news broke is, I suspect, correct: Most Americans don’t care much about data-mining under normal circumstances. According to a National Journal poll released this afternoon, fully 85 percent think it’s “likely” that their communications history is already available to government and business. It’s not that they’re happy about their info being accessible (well, Lindsey Graham is), it’s that they’ve apparently accepted it as a fact of post-9/11 life. The scope of the mining in the Verizon order and the bipartisan outcry over it might make them care more, especially if they feel that the cost of data-mining to privacy vastly outweighs the benefits. Enter Rogers and Feinstein to insist that no, the benefits are quite high after all. It’s actually saving lives. What they mean by that, we’ll have to wait and see. Stand by for details as the inevitable leak/declassification of the secret thwarted terror attack happens.

While we wait, via Mediaite, here’s Patriot Act author Jim Sensenbrenner shocked that the law he wrote is enabling record-harvesting on this scale. Little late for that now, no?


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Bingo. Which isn’t violated by obtaining phone records. To be illegal per the 4th, it must be unreasonable, involve both search and seizure, and the search must involve a place, which a phone record is not.

Papers aren’t a place either.

The 4th is meant to protect against warrant-less raids of people’s private residences, not against the gathering of records.

Stoic Patriot

And yet, nowhere in the 4th does it say that. Must be one of those living and breathing things.

xblade on June 6, 2013 at 6:39 PM

Bingo. Which isn’t violated by obtaining phone records. To be illegal per the 4th, it must be unreasonable, involve both search and seizure, and the search must involve a place, which a phone record is not.

Papers aren’t a place either.

The 4th is meant to protect against warrant-less raids of people’s private residences, not against the gathering of records.

Stoic Patriot

And yet, nowhere in the 4th does it say that. Must be one of those living and breathing things.

xblade on June 6, 2013 at 6:39 PM

True. Papers are not a place. But if the government enters your residence to take your papers, then that triggers the “place” aspect of the 4th amendment. Strictly speaking, the phone record belongs to the phone company, not their customers, and there exist other laws requiring that companies divulge those records in certain circumstances, and frequently they volunteer to turn over those records anyway.

That is what makes a 4th amendment violation case as some folks are trying to do with this, groundless.

Stoic Patriot on June 6, 2013 at 6:49 PM

Stoic Patriot

BTW, any chance you’re a Harvard Law professor? It might explain some things if you are.

xblade on June 6, 2013 at 6:51 PM

BTW, any chance you’re a Harvard Law professor? It might explain some things if you are.

xblade on June 6, 2013 at 6:51 PM

Nope. I’m an economist, although many people have told me that I ought to be a lawyer. I’m always ambivalent about how to take that though. =)

Stoic Patriot on June 6, 2013 at 6:54 PM

True. Papers are not a place. But if the government enters your residence to take your papers, then that triggers the “place” aspect of the 4th amendment. Strictly speaking, the phone record belongs to the phone company, not their customers, and there exist other laws requiring that companies divulge those records in certain circumstances, and frequently they volunteer to turn over those records anyway.

That is what makes a 4th amendment violation case as some folks are trying to do with this, groundless.

Stoic Patriot on June 6, 2013 at 6:49 PM

Run home. You are in way over your head arguing about constitutional issues with only your illogical opinions to back you up whereas we have 100s of years of actual case law:

U.S. Supreme Court
Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967)
Katz v. United States

No. 35

Argued October 17, 1967

Decided December 18, 1967

389 U.S. 347


(b) Because the Fourth Amendment protects people, rather than places, its reach cannot turn on the presence or absence of a physical intrusion into any given enclosure. The “trespass” doctrine of Olmstead v. United States, 277 U. S. 438, and Goldman v. United States, 316 U. S. 129, is no longer controlling. Pp. 389 U. S. 351, 389 U. S. 353.

weaselyone on June 6, 2013 at 6:58 PM

Run home. You are in way over your head arguing about constitutional issues with only your illogical opinions to back you up whereas we have 100s of years of actual case law:

weaselyone on June 6, 2013 at 6:58 PM

Given that I am home, I suppose I’ll stay right where I am. =)

The Supreme Court also has Dred Scott, Roe v Wade, Kelo v New London, Griswold v Connecticut, the SB1070 decision, the decision to uphold Obamacare, and a whole other host of bad decisions they’ve handed down. Although they may have the authority to interpret statutes, amendments, and articles of the constitution, that doesn’t mean that I respect or agree with them.

Stoic Patriot on June 6, 2013 at 7:02 PM

Given that I am home, I suppose I’ll stay right where I am. =)

The Supreme Court also has Dred Scott, Roe v Wade, Kelo v New London, Griswold v Connecticut, the SB1070 decision, the decision to uphold Obamacare, and a whole other host of bad decisions they’ve handed down. Although they may have the authority to interpret statutes, amendments, and articles of the constitution, that doesn’t mean that I respect or agree with them.

Stoic Patriot on June 6, 2013 at 7:02 PM

You were attempting to defend the legality of this by falsely stating your opinions of what the 4th amendment protects. While you are entitled to your opinions, the only opinions that matter when it comes to the law are those of the SC justices. You don’t have to respect or agree with their decisions, but their decisions are the law until overturned by a future court or legislation.

weaselyone on June 6, 2013 at 7:10 PM

You were attempting to defend the legality of this by falsely stating your opinions of what the 4th amendment protects. While you are entitled to your opinions, the only opinions that matter when it comes to the law are those of the SC justices. You don’t have to respect or agree with their decisions, but their decisions are the law until overturned by a future court or legislation.

weaselyone on June 6, 2013 at 7:10 PM

I’d quibble about whether or not their opinions are the “law” (although that’s also why we distinguish between case law and statute). What unnerves me about that characterization of law is that essentially everything is legal or illegal until it’s not, which in turn means that all law is simply arbitrary whim rather than found in legislation passed by duly-elected representatives.

Not that that’s an inaccurate model. I simply prefer to speak of the court as not following the law, and conceive of the law as something with a theoretical truth value than just a harsh, fickle, pragmatic reality.

Stoic Patriot on June 6, 2013 at 7:19 PM

The Feds have caught themselves in their own lives.

Question for the “news” media to ask Mr. Cool in the WH: If AQ is on the run, and all our terrorist attacks are lone wolves or workplace accidents, why do we need MASSIVE surveillance?

PattyJ on June 6, 2013 at 7:22 PM

While we wait, via Mediaite, here’s Patriot Act author Jim Sensenbrenner shocked that the law he wrote is enabling record-harvesting on this scale. Little late for that now, no?

From the Mediaite link:

“Activities authorized under the Act are subject to strict controls and procedures under oversight of the Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the FISA Court, to ensure that they comply with the Constitution and laws of the United States and appropriately protect privacy and civil liberties,” the official said.

So reassuring.

AesopFan on June 6, 2013 at 8:04 PM

I seem to remember arguing with a liberal about this when the idea of mining phone logs was an idea of the evil Booooosh. In any event there are more true scandals going on now that it seems rather silly to get your collective panties in a bunch over this one. If you argued it was wrong for Booooosh to do this and are against this this now than I applaud you for your consistency. If this is just another beat the drum for the latest scandal I suggest you look elsewhere. Closing Gitmo is a far better example of hypocrisy from the libtards than this. Really, nothing to see here, move along.

nokarmahere on June 6, 2013 at 8:22 PM

Even if Bush started it, Obama had plenty of time to reverse the supposed evil (as he has done with other issues of lesser importance – e.g. DOMA).

The hypocrites have become criminals.

virgo on June 7, 2013 at 1:16 AM

The GOP Intel chair needs to be dragged off of that chair by his ears! This whole surveillance scandal has blown wide open, & it is clear that our federal government has far surpassed our fear of becoming a ‘Big Brother’! It has now become our worst nightmare!

easyt65 on June 7, 2013 at 8:34 AM

Welcome to the truth, America:

It is not the GOP who are the enemy.
It is not even the DNC who are the enemy.
The ENEMY is the very ‘Big Government’ that exists & which Obama has and wants to continue to expand. Our government is out of control, & it is going to be (almost) IMPOSSIBLE to get the ‘genie’ back into the proverbial bottle.

easyt65 on June 7, 2013 at 8:38 AM

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