The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee today downplayed the revelation that the NSA is collecting millions of phone records from Verizon, Politico and CNN report:
- "As far as I know, this is the exact three-month renewal of what has been in place for the past seven years," Dianne Feinstein told reporters. "This renewal is carried out by the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] under the business records section of the Patriot Act. Therefore it is lawful. It has been briefed to Congress." She added that the government can only use the information gathered if there is "reasonable and articulate suspicion that the records are relevant and related to terrorist activity." Terrorists "will come after us if they can and the only thing that we have to deter this is good intelligence to understand that a plot has been hatched and to get there before they get to us."
- Saxby Chambliss called the monitoring "nothing new," and concurred with Feinstein that the information can't be accessed without the FISA court's approval. "This has been going on for seven years,” he continued. "Every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this. To my knowledge there has not been any citizen who has registered a complaint. It has proved meritorious because we have collected significant information on bad guys, but only on bad guys, over the years."
An anonymous White House official had earlier assured Politico that the government is not allowed to actually "listen in on anyone's telephone calls."