Castor signs on to letter to Obama regarding NSA surveillance

“The NSA has trillions of telephone calls and emails in their databases that they’ve collected over the last several years,” Greenwald told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. “And what these programs are, are very simple screens, like the ones that supermarket clerks or shipping and receiving clerks use, where all an analyst has to do is enter an email address or an IP address, and it does two things. It searches that database and lets them listen to the calls or read the emails of everything that the NSA has stored, or look at the browsing histories or Google search terms that you’ve entered, and it also alerts them to any further activity that people connected to that email address or that IP address do in the future.”

Meanwhile House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers from Michigan went on NBC's Meet The Press to blast the Amash amendment, and said that NSA program that has been brought to the country's attention due to Edward Snowden's revelations have resulted in "zero privacy violations, 54 violent terrorist attacks thwarted. That's a pretty good record. That's a great record, and that tells me this is one program that works to protect your privacy and live up to our constitutional obligation in Congress that says we must provide for the general defense for the United States."

Rogers went on to say that most people think the phone calls checked by the NSA are recorded. "They're not," saying that they're just a long list of phone numbers with no names and no addresses.

Here's that letter written by Pelosi to the president that Kathy Castor has co-signed:

Dear Mr. President:

Thank you for your leadership in honoring our responsibility to protect and defend the American people. As you know, our challenge as elected officials is to preserve Americans’ liberties while protecting our national security.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives considered an amendment offered by Representatives Amash and Conyers to H.R. 2397, the Fiscal Year 2014 Defense Appropriations bill. The Amash-Conyers amendment would have limited NSA’s ability to collect bulk telecommunications records pursuant to Section 215 of the Patriot Act as codified in Section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Although the amendment was defeated 205-217, it is clear that concerns remain about the continued implementation of the program in its current form.

Although some of us voted for and others against the amendment, we all agree that there are lingering questions and concerns about the current 215 collection program. These include:

· Whether the bulk metadata telecommunications collection program sufficiently protects the privacy and civil liberties of Americans.

· Whether the program could be tailored more narrowly to better ensure the protection of privacy and civil liberties.

· Whether the law is being implemented in a manner consistent with Congressional intent.

· How we can ensure greater transparency regarding FISA court operations, decision making, and issuance of orders.

· Whether changes to the current FISA Court structure are needed.

Congress must examine the various national security collection programs and consider amendments to the law. We have been assured that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has embarked on a review of the collection programs done pursuant to FISA and the Patriot Act, and has agreed to review various legislative proposals.

We look forward to working with you and Administration officials to address the concerns outlined above and to explore options which will preserve Americans’ privacy and civil liberties while protecting our national security.

Thank you for your leadership and your attention to these concerns.


On CBS's Face The Nation on Sunday, Colorado Democratic Senator Mark Udall said that the Obama administration is defining Section 215 of the Patriot Act broadly, saying, "You can collect people's medical records, their financial records, their credit card records, you name it, anything is on the table."

As we reported last week, Tampa area Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor surprised some of her constituents when she voted with Bill Young and Gus Bilirakis (among others) in opposing an amendment that would have cut funding for the NSA program that collects phone data.

As reported by Foreign Policy, a number of House Democrats opposed the amendment (offered by Michigan Republican Justin Amash) because of lobbying by their leader, Nancy Pelosi.

However, Pelosi did pen a letter to President Obama on Friday (see below) that Castor signed onto that calls on Congress to examine the various national security collection programs and consider amendments to the law.

Meanwhile, on ABC's This Week Glenn Greenwald — the reporter who broke the story about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs — claimed that those NSA programs allowed even low-level analysts to search the private emails and phone calls of Americans.

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