By Christopher Doering
The discovery that the U.S. government has been collecting the phone records of millions of Verizon customers under a secret court order needs to be further investigated, South Dakota lawmakers said on Thursday.
The Obama administration defended the National Security Agency’s need to collect phone records as a critical tool in the country’s fight on terror. Still, the White House stopped short of confirming reports that Verizon, bound by a court order, had provided phone records to the government agency.
“We absolutely need to get to the bottom of this,” said Noem.”I know I’m concerned about it and that a lot of people are raising questions about it. We really got to figure out what’s going on and what the intent of it was.”
The order to collect the records was granted by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on April 25 and was in effect until July 19. The records included details such as the location of the call, length and the number of both parties, but it did not include what was being discussed.
Still, other Washington lawmakers said more needs to be known about what information the government was looking for, whether other phone companies also were involved and how the information gathered was used.
“There’s a fine line between taking the necessary steps to protect the American people from the threat posed by terrorism and the need to maintain the freedoms and rights upon which our nation was founded,” said Sen. Tim Johnson. “Congress has an important oversight role in helping to ensure surveillance efforts do not threaten our civil liberties, and I will push the Administration for further details on their collection of phone records.”