Sen. Lindsey Graham said Thursday that he is “glad” that the National Security Agency is collecting millions of telephone records — including his own — from one of the nation’s largest telecommunications companies in an attempt to combat terrorism.
Mr. Graham said that he is a Verizon customer and has no problem with the company turning over records to the government if it helps it do its job. The South Carolina Republican said that people who have done nothing wrong have nothing to worry about because the NSA is mining the phone records for people with suspected ties to terrorism.
“We are very much under threat. Radical Islam is on the rise throughout the region. Homegrown terrorism is one of my biggest concerns. It is happening in our own backyard, and I am glad that NSA is trying to find out what terrorists are up to overseas and inside the country,” Mr. Graham said during an appearance on “Fox and Friends.”
Mr. Graham’s comments came shortly after the White House broke its silence on a news report in the Guardian, a newspaper in the United Kingdom, that said the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court granted the FBI a highly classified court order that requires that Verizon turn over on an “ongoing, daily basis” information on all telephone calls in the system to the NSA, including those calls made in the US as well as those between the U.S. and other countries.
“Information of the sort described in the Guardian article has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States, as it allows counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States,” the senior Obama administration official said.
The court order runs from April 25 until July 19 and shows the the Obama administration has been gathering found records of millions of Verizon customers, regardless of whether or not they are suspected of wrong doing.
“On its face, the order reprinted in the article does not allow the government to listen in on anyone’s telephone calls,” the senior administration official said Thursday. “The information acquired does not include the content of any communications or the name of any subscriber. It relates exclusively to metadata, such as a telephone number or the length of a call.”
The official said that Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and is regularly briefed on the information collected under it.