Just how sweeping is the NSA's data collection? So sweeping that it likely includes members of Congress and President Obama himself, Deputy Attorney General James Cole conceded yesterday. In a contentious Judiciary Committee hearing, Darrell Issa asked Cole directly if the government collected data on numbers beginning with (202) 225-, which is the prefix for Congress. "We probably do, Mr. Congressman," he replied, according to the National Journal. "But we're not allowed to look at any of those" without a reasonable suspicion.
Issa then asked about the president's phone. "I believe every phone number that is with the providers … comes in under the scope of that order," Cole said, implying that Obama's would be included. Issa asked him to find out specifically and report back, then quipped, "Especially if he calls Chancellor Merkel." You can read more of Issa's duel with Cole at the Washington Post. Other lawmakers piled on Cole, too. James Sensenbrenner, the primary author of the Patriot Act, said that "if the bulk collection program was debated by the Congress … it never would have been approved," the AFP reports. He warned that unless the program changes, "there are not enough votes in Congress" to renew it when it expires next year. (Read more NSA stories.)