The U.S. government’s interpretation of its authority under the Patriot Act is so broad that it could justify mass collection of financial, health and even library records of innocent Americans without their knowledge, a civil liberties lawyer warned Friday at a hearing on a lawsuit challenging a federal phone-tracking program.
He gave more surveillance power to U.S. government spies, railed against civil liberties advocates who warned about privacy abuses, and famously shut down a 2005 hearing to silence critics.
The Justice Department is declassifying portions of some secret court orders concerning the government’s authority to seize records under the Patriot Act.
Despite President Barack Obama’s vow for greater “transparency” and tighter National Security Agency restrictions, only 11 percent of American voters think the government is now less likely to monitor their private phone calls.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit charging that the NSA’s mass surveillance of U.S. citizens’ data violates constitutional rights of free speech and privacy.
The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence committee says the top secret court order for telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon is a three-month renewal of an ongoing practice.