A leading Republican senator on Tuesday described controversial U.S. spy programs as looking far deeper into Americans’ phone records than the Obama administration has been willing to admit, fueling new privacy concerns as Congress sought to defend the surveillance systems.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC., says the U.S. intelligence surveillance of phone records allows analysts to monitor U.S. phone records for a pattern of calls, even if those numbers have no known connection to terrorism. Graham says the National Security Agency then matches phone numbers against known terrorists. Graham helped draft the surveillance law that governs the surveillance program.
Technically, I guess this is true, since the Obama administration hasn’t been willing to say anything about the NSA phone surveillance program. But aside from that, this is what everyone in the world has been talking about for days, ever since the Verizon warrant was first revealed: pattern matching, link analysis, and data mining in general. So this is hardly a fresh bombshell. Still, in a way I guess it’s the first official-ish acknowledgement that this is what NSA is doing, so that makes it news.
Elsewhere, CBS News reports that 58 percent of Americans disapprove of the government collecting the phone records of ordinary Americans. Yesterday, Pew reported that 56 percent of Americans approved. Obviously, question wording is going to be a real headache on this issue.