Today, Americans woke up to hear that the NSA is collecting millions of their phone records on a daily basis under a court order obtained in April. But don’t worry, our intrepid attorney general has sprung into action.
According to NBC reporter, Pete Williams, the DOJ will ‘most likely’ investigate the source who leaked the bombshell NSA information to Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian.
Michael Calderone at Huffington Post reported:
Williams, a well-sourced reporter who just interviewed Attorney General Eric Holder last night about the leak investigations, jumped in with an answer.
However, a senior administration official told The Huffington Post Thursday morning that it’s premature to suggest an investigation is certain to take place.
On MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” later Thursday morning, Williams slightly walked back his earlier comments from certainty to near certainty. “It seems highly likely this will trigger a leak investigation,” he told host Chuck Todd.
While no investigation is yet underway, Williams said, “It just seems very likely, given the sensitivity of this document, that there will be one.”
On Wednesday night, the American Civil Liberties Union described the NSA’s massive collecting of phone records as “beyond Orwellian.”
Is this story being blown out of proportion? Andrew McCarthy makes that case at NRO, today.
Here is what they don’t tell you. Telephone record information (e.g., the numbers dialed and duration of calls) is not and has never been protected by the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court held as much in its 1979 Smith v. Maryland decision. Understand: the phone record information at issue here is very different from the content of telephone conversations. Because the latter involve higher privacy expectations, they are heavily regulated under not only the Fourth Amendment but both Title III of the federal penal code and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Under these laws, the government is not permitted to access communications content absent court authorization based on probable cause either that a crime has been committed or that the surveillance target is an agent of a foreign power (such as a terrorist organization or a hostile government).
Keep reading. McCarthy argues that this type of information gathering is necessary for preventive, intelligence-based counterterrorism, but the bottom line is, because this president and attorney general’s “authoritarian abuses of power” and “serial lawlessness” have so grossly violated the public’s trust, the executive branch is deemed unfit to wield these legitimate investigative authorities.
Of course information gathering can be abused, but as McCarthy ruefully notes, “elections have consequences.”