President Barack Obama Friday sought to defend broad surveillance of Americans’ phone records and Internet usage by the National Security Agency, saying it takes place under strict supervision and has played a vital role in preventing acts of terrorism.
The programs, detailed in reporting this week by The Guardian, and The Washington Post based on leaked, classified documents, reveal that the NSA has been pulling Internet users’ information directly from the servers of major Internet companies, including Google and Skype. Phone carrier Verizon also has been turning over records to the NSA of every single call made daily, on the basis of a secret court order.
They were made possible by a series of bills passed since the start of the “War on Terror” in 2001, including the Patriot Act.
Some lawmakers have sought to distance themselves from the controversial programs. U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Bucks County, released this statement Friday: “While we need to make sure our law enforcement agencies have the tools they need to thwart terrorism at home and abroad, we must not do it at the expense of our personal privacy or civil liberties.
He accurately points out that he voted against reauthorizations of the bill in 2005 (which ultimately failed) and in 2011, while omitting a vote for reauthorization in 2006.
In the interest of full transparency, The Atlantic’s Philip Bump helpfully compiled the voting records of all sitting members of Congress on the five bills that passed, authorizing the surveillance programs at issue today.
We’ve pulled the records of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware legislators below: