Democrat: Obama’s Spying Compromise Threatens Millions

Jay Rockefeller doesn’t trust the private sector to store phone data.

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 03: Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) answers reporters questions during a news conference about funding for the Federal Aviation Administration at the U.S. Capitol August 3, 2011 in Washington, DC. Congressional Democrats blamed Republicans in the House of Representatives for refusing to pass a 'clean' bill to fund the FAA, leaving 4,000 agency employees out of work and relying on airport safety inspectors to continue working without pay. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
Add to Briefcase
Brendan Sasso
Jan. 29, 2014, 7:34 a.m.

For­cing the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency to give up con­trol over its massive data­base of phone re­cords would harm na­tion­al se­cur­ity and en­danger the pri­vacy of mil­lions of Amer­ic­ans, Demo­crat­ic Sen. Jay Rock­e­feller said Wed­nes­day.

“While the pres­id­ent has made it clear that he un­der­stands our in­tel­li­gence need for this data, I do not be­lieve we can come up with a bet­ter al­tern­at­ive,” Rock­e­feller said at a Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee hear­ing.

“Here’s why: Prac­tic­ally, we do not have the tech­nic­al ca­pa­city to do so. And, cer­tainly, it is im­possible to do so without the pos­sib­il­ity of massive mis­takes or cata­stroph­ic pri­vacy vi­ol­a­tions.”

One of the most con­tro­ver­sial rev­el­a­tions from the leaks by Ed­ward Snowden is that the NSA col­lects re­cords — such as phone num­bers, call times, and call dur­a­tions — on vir­tu­ally all U.S. calls. In an at­tempt to ease the grow­ing out­rage over NSA sur­veil­lance, Pres­id­ent Obama an­nounced earli­er this month that he asked At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Eric Hold­er and top In­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials to come up with a plan to give up con­trol of the phone data­base.

It’s un­clear how ex­actly the ad­min­is­tra­tion plans to con­tin­ue min­ing the phone re­cords while no longer con­trolling the data­base. One pos­sib­il­ity is that a new private en­tity will hold the re­cords and then give the NSA ac­cess to it. An­oth­er pro­pos­al would be to re­quire the phone com­pan­ies to main­tain the re­cords on be­half of the gov­ern­ment.

But Rock­e­feller said it is an “im­possib­il­ity” to cre­ate a new en­tity that could co­ordin­ate and handle bil­lions of sens­it­ive phone re­cords safely. He also noted that the phone com­pan­ies have no in­terest in be­com­ing “agents” of the gov­ern­ment.

“The tele­com pro­viders them­selves do not want to do this, and for good reas­on,” he said. “Tele­com com­pan­ies do not take an oath — they are neither coun­terter­ror­ism agen­cies nor pri­vacy-pro­tec­tion or­gan­iz­a­tions. They are busi­nesses, and they are fo­cused on re­ward­ing their share­hold­ers, not pro­tect­ing pri­vacy or na­tion­al se­cur­ity.”

Rock­e­feller, the chair­man of the Sen­ate Com­merce Com­mit­tee, which over­sees the tele­com­mu­nic­a­tions in­dustry, said he has dealt with the phone com­pan­ies enough to know not to trust them.

“I have served on the Com­merce Com­mit­tee for 30 years and know that tele­phone com­pan­ies some­times make empty prom­ises about con­sumer pro­tec­tion and trans­par­ency,” he said. “Cor­por­a­tions core profit motives can, and some­times have, trumped their hold­ing to their own pub­lic com­mit­ments.”

The sen­at­or wor­ried that keep­ing the sens­it­ive re­cords in the private sec­tor could leave them vul­ner­able to hack­ers. He ar­gued that the re­cent data breach at Tar­get shows that only the gov­ern­ment can be trus­ted with pro­tect­ing such a massive trove of private data.

Rock­e­feller also ar­gued that the NSA is sub­ject to “strin­gent” audits and over­sight to en­sure that ana­lysts don’t ab­use their power to ac­cess private in­form­a­tion without prop­er au­thor­iz­a­tion. The private sec­tor has no such pro­tec­tions, he said.

“I can’t tell you how strongly I feel about this,” Rock­e­feller em­phas­ized.

Sen. Di­anne Fein­stein, the chair­wo­man of the Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, noted Rock­e­feller’s ex­tens­ive ex­per­i­ence deal­ing with tele­com­mu­nic­a­tions is­sues on the Com­merce Com­mit­tee.

“In my view, he knows what he’s talk­ing about,” she said.

What We're Following See More »
BOON TO PROSECUTORS
SCOTUS Rules that Insider Trading Can’t Be “Gifted”
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In a unanimous decision, "the Supreme Court on Tuesday said it violates insider-trading laws for a corporate officer to make a “gift” of insider information to a relative, a decision that makes it easier for those who police Wall Street to bring prosecutions."

Source:
EFFORT LIKELY TO DIE IN COMMITTEE
Jordan Can’t Force a Floor Vote on Impeaching Koskinen
9 hours ago
THE LATEST
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan attempted to force a floor vote on impeaching IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, but "the House voted overwhelmingly to refer it to the Judiciary Committee. ... The committee will not be required to take up the resolution." Earlier, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi "made a motion to table the resolution, which the House voted against by a 180-235 margin, mostly along party lines."
Source:
AFTER THE VOTE FOR SPEAKER
Ryan: No Committee Assignments Until New Year
14 hours ago
THE DETAILS

House Speaker Paul Ryan has decreed that House members "won’t receive their committee assignments until January — after they cast a public vote on the House floor for speaker. "The move has sparked behind-the-scenes grumbling from a handful of Ryan critics, who say the delay allows him and the Speaker-aligned Steering Committee to dole out committee assignments based on political loyalty rather than merit or expertise." The roll call to elect the speaker is set for Jan. 3, the first vote of the new Congress.

Source:
EXPECTED TO FUND THE GOVERNMENT THROUGH SPRING
Funding Bill To Be Released Tuesday
1 days ago
THE LATEST

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters on Monday that the government funding bill will be released on Tuesday. The bill is the last piece of legislation Congress needs to pass before leaving for the year and is expected to fund the government through the spring. The exact time date the bill would fund the government through is unclear, though it is expected to be in April or May.

Source:
IT’S OFFICIAL
Trump to Nominate Carson to Lead HUD
1 days ago
THE LATEST

As has been rumored for a week, Donald Trump will nominate Ben Carson, his former rival, to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In a statement, Trump said, "We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities. Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a Presidency representing all Americans. He is a tough competitor and never gives up."

Source:
×
×

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