In Reversal, Members of Congress Call on Obama to Work Around Them

A trio of senators says the administration doesn’t need congressional approval to stop NSA phone spying.

The Obama administration announced this week that it seek to end the National Security Administration's method of collecting citizen's phone data.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
Add to Briefcase
Sarah Mimms
March 25, 2014, 12:52 p.m.

Coun­ter­ing the nar­rat­ive on the oth­er side of the Cap­it­ol, three sen­at­ors held an im­promptu press con­fer­ence Tues­day af­ter­noon, call­ing on the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to go ahead and work around Con­gress.

Huddled against the south wall of the Sen­ate cham­ber, up­sta­ging Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell’s of­fi­cial weekly press­er just feet away, Sens. Rand Paul, Ron Wyden, and Mark Ud­all offered praise for the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pro­pos­al to end the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s prac­tice of col­lect­ing phone data. But all three sen­at­ors tacked on one big ad­dendum: Do it now.

Pres­id­ent Obama, who has said he will in­creas­ingly rely on his ex­ec­ut­ive au­thor­ity this year, much to the chag­rin of con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans, said this week that his ad­min­is­tra­tion will have to wait for con­gres­sion­al ap­prov­al be­fore the NSA can cease its data col­lec­tion pro­gram. But Paul, Wyden, and Ud­all ar­gued Tues­day that the pres­id­ent doesn’t need Con­gress in this in­stance.

“They nev­er quite got con­gres­sion­al per­mis­sion to do it in the first place,” Paul said Tues­day, re­fer­ring to the col­lec­tion of mil­lions of Amer­ic­ans’ phone re­cords. “So I think they can stop im­me­di­ately.”

But these sen­at­ors are not tak­ing them­selves en­tirely out of the equa­tion either. All three said Tues­day that they want an NSA change co­di­fied in­to law — pre­sum­ably lest some oth­er pres­id­ent re­in­state the pro­gram, or Obama change his mind — but get­ting le­gis­la­tion through Con­gress takes too much time and can be done after the fact.

“It may take a little time to get the le­gis­la­tion passed, but they can stop right now — right now,” Wyden said.

In the in­ter­im, the sen­at­ors said  they will “in­sist” that the NSA seek war­rants to ac­cess Amer­ic­ans’ phone re­cords, rather than pur­su­ing blind col­lec­tion, while leav­ing an ex­emp­tion for emer­gency situ­ations.

“There’s emer­gency au­thor­ity which en­sures that in the peri­od between now and the time we try to get the le­gis­la­tion passed, we’re pro­tect­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al rights of the Amer­ic­an people, while at the same time deal­ing with a very real threat,” Wyden said.

Paul, long a pro­ponent of the Fourth Amend­ment, ar­gued that the Su­preme Court may also have to weigh in on the is­sue, a pro­cess that could take even longer.

“If you no­tice, most of what they say — and this could be the White House or any de­fend­ers of this pro­gram — they will say, ‘Da da da da da, we have these pri­vacy con­trols, we’re go­ing to do da da da da da,’ but re­cords are not pro­tec­ted by the Fourth Amend­ment,” he said. “This is still a big ques­tion. I think it will still have to be de­cided by the Su­preme Court.”

What We're Following See More »
CITES CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Lieberman Withdraws from Consideration for FBI Job
2 days ago
THE LATEST
MINIMUM 2 PERCENT GDP
Trump Tells NATO Countries To Pay Up
3 days ago
BREAKING
MANAFORT AND FLYNN
Russians Discussed Influencing Trump Through Aides
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Source:
BUT WHITE HOUSE MAY USE AGAINST HIM ANYWAY
Ethics Cops Clear Mueller to Work on Trump Case
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."

Source:
BUSINESSES CAN’T PLEAD FIFTH
Senate Intel to Subpoena Two of Flynn’s Businesses
4 days ago
THE LATEST

Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."

×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login