Dem senator calls for high court review of NSA

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) says the Supreme Court needs to determine whether the National Security Agency’s controversial data collection methods are constitutional.

“We’ve got to get a constitutional ruling on this as quickly as possible,” Mikulski said in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing with top intelligence leaders on Wednesday.

“We need to determine the constitutionality, because if it's not constitutional, that’s it,” she said.

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The Maryland Democrat asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to join with the White House and Attorney General Eric Holder to petition the Supreme Court for an “expedited review” of the NSA’s collection of bulk records for nearly all phone calls. That review is necessary, she said, so “we don’t continually shop for the legal opinion that we want, either one side or the other.”

The NSA’s collection and storage of phone records, which include data about numbers dialed as well as frequency and duration of calls but not call content, were disclosed in documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Clapper did not commit to asking for a speedy review from the high court but said he would “discuss” the issue with Holder, with whom he is working to develop reforms for the NSA.

“I could not agree with you more for the need for clarify on these issues for the men and women in the intelligence community," Clapper said.

Courts have been split on whether the data collection falls within the bounds of the Constitution. Last month, a federal judge ruled the program was “almost Orwellian.” Other courts, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, have upheld the program.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a small federal agency, this month declared the program was not authorized under the law and should be ended.