Snooping Concerns Emerge Over Congressional Blackberries Serviced By Verizon
Amid the revelations that the National Security Agency has been secretly monitoring the records of millions of phone calls across the country via telephone service provider Verizon, Congress is concerned that the NSA's actions may have also captured phone calls of lawmakers and their staffers. It should be noted that Verizon is one of the main service providers to government issued Blackberries members and their staff use to communicate with one another.
A senior hill staffer on the House side told Breitbart News on Sunday, “I have grave concerns over the privacy of communications between staff and their member of Congress. All of our communications go through Verizon or ATT to reach our Blackberries." The staffer added, "Through a blanket seizing of these communications, the NSA is permanently intercepting and storing privileged material. This rasies further constitutional issues regarding separation of powers."
A senior Senate staffer agreed telling Breitbart News, "Senators and staff all use Verizon phones. So the executive branch is monitoring the meta data of the Senate. This seems like a violation of the Speech and Debate Clause of the Constitution."
"The calling data that is gathered can be more invasive than knowing the content of the call. One can figure out much about a person's personal habits, preferences and line of work from knowing how often and patterns of calls," he said.
Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) questioned Attorney General Eric Holder last Thursday at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing about whether the NSA spied on members of Congress.
“Mr. Attorney General, I want to take you to the Verizon scandal and — which I understand takes us to possibly monitoring up to 120 million calls. You know, when government bureaucrats are sloppy, they’re usually really sloppy. Want to just ask, could you assure to us that no phone inside the Capitol were monitored of members of Congress that would give a future executive branch, if they started pulling this kind of thing off, would give them unique leverage over the legislature?" he asked.
Holder responded, “With all due respect, Senator, I don’t think this is an appropriate setting for me to discuss that issue. I’d be more than glad to come back in a — in an appropriate setting to discuss the issues that you have raised."
Kirk, a Naval intelligence officer, pressed Holder remarking, “I would interrupt you and say the correct answer would be say no, we stayed within our lane, and I’m assuring you we did not spy on members of Congress.”
Holder remained defiant saying, “And I would be more than glad, as I said, in an appropriate setting, to deal with the question. And Senator Kirk, please do not take my response as something — as being anything but respectful of the concerns that you have raised. There has been no intention to do anything of that nature — that is, to spy on members of Congress, to spy on members of the Supreme Court.”
Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, said Kirk raised “a very important point," and said a classified hearing would be in order to discuss the issue further.
"This act by the Obama Administration is clearly unconstitutional. The federal government has no probable cause to believe that all users of Verizon phones are presumed the aiders and abettors to international criminals," said the Senate staffer. He continued, "The 4th Amendment requires probable cause and it does not exist, unless if we are now to presume that all Americans are potential terrorists."