Holder questions NSA phone data collection

Attorney General Eric Holder claimed Tuesday that members of the Obama administration had concerns about the extent of the National Security Agency's surveillance operations before former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked details to the press.

In an interview on CNN, Holder singled out the NSA's controversial program to collect records on all U.S. phone calls.

"There were questions that I think — as I said, there were conversations that we were having ... within the administration, and especially when it comes to the question of meta data, the collection of meta data," Holder said. 

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"And that's something that I think Congress is — is talking about now. There's legislation ... that is being considered, and it's something that the administration wants to work with the Congress about," he added. 

Snowden revealed earlier this year that the NSA collects "meta data" such as phone numbers, call times and call durations on all U.S. calls. The records collected under the program do not include the contents of any conversations, the NSA says.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), the original author of the Patriot Act, have introduced legislation to end the NSA's bulk collection of phone records. 

But National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander has argued that the program is critical for thwarting terrorist attacks. He says the program helps the agency "connect the dots" and track terrorists. 

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has also vowed to defend the phone data collection.

"I will do everything I can to prevent this program from being canceled," she said at a hearing last month.

President Obama has ordered a review of the NSA's surveillance programs, but he has not said whether he would support ending the bulk collection of phone records. 

 

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