WASHINGTON — In a House Judiciary Committee hearing today U.S. Congressman Blake Farenthold (TX-27) pressed Department of Justice and NSA officials about the administration’s collection of personal phone records and other data under classified FISA authorities.
The FISA business records provision – often referred to as Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act – allows the FBI to access tangible items, including business records, in foreign intelligence, international terrorism and clandestine intelligence investigations. During Congressman Farenthold’s line of questioning, he pressed Deputy Attorney General James Cole to see where the government draws the line between national security and personal privacy, and uncover which of our civil liberties are still protected by the 1st and 4th Amendment.
“How is having every phone call that I make to my wife, to my daughter relevant to any terror investigation,” Congressman Farenthold questioned.
“I just want to point out how concerned I am about this data being so easily available and just with the stroke of a pen Congress and the president could change the search criteria and change the definition of a terrorist,” the Congressman continued.
“So do I have a reasonable expectation of privacy in any information that I share with a company? My Google searches? The emails I send? Do I have a reasonable expectation of privacy in anything but maybe a letter I hand deliver to my wife,” the Congressman asked.
“Those are all dependent on the facts and circumstances of the documents we are talking about,” said Deputy Attorney General Cole.