- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee criticized a federal judge’s ruling this week that the NSA is likely violating Americans’ rights by storing records about their phone calls, saying Tuesday that the decision flies in the face of Supreme Court precedent and dozens of other court rulings.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said Judge Richard J. Leon’s opinion, released Monday, contradicts the secret intelligence court that has upheld the NSA’s phone program 35 times, and also contradicts a federal court in California.

“Only the Supreme Court can resolve the question on the constitutionality of the NSA’s program,” Mrs. Feinstein said in a statement. “I welcome a Supreme Court review since it has been more than 30 years since the court’s original decision of constitutionality, and I believe it is crucial to settling the issue once and for all.”

The National Security Agency program, revealed in leaks by former government contractor Edward Snowden, has been gathering phone records of most calls made in the U.S. and storing the time, duration, and numbers of both parties. The federal government says it only uses the stored information when it is investigating a potential terrorist lead.

Judge Leon ruled that gathering and storing the data likely violates Americans’ privacy rights. He ordered the NSA to stop collecting information on the two plaintiffs — though he stayed his own order to give the Obama administration a chance to appeal.

Many members of Congress applauded Judge Leon’s ruling, saying it highlighted an area where the government has overreached.

But Mrs. Feinstein, who is a staunch supporter of the NSA program, said the phone call records are helping to keep Americans safe. She said she’s more swayed by the secret court judges than by Judge Leon’s logic.

Mrs. Feinstein has written a bill, which cleared her committee last month, that would put the NSA program on firm legal footing, giving full approval for its activities — though requiring more reports to Congress.