Friday, May 12, 2006

Florida congressional delegation questions NSA actions

www.gainesville.com

By CINDY SWIRKO

Sun staff writer

May 12. 2006 6:01AM

Reaction ranged from questioning to strong denunciations from the region's congressional delegation to revelations that phone records of millions of Americans were secretly turned over to the National Security Administration.

Democrats and Republicans alike said they have serious questions about the action after reading details reported Thursday in USA Today.

Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, said she believes the military and intelligence agencies are strong and organized enough to defeat terrorists without turning the United States into an "Orwellian type dictatorship."

Brown denounced the Bush administration over the phone records.

"This administration has already overstepped its boundaries in the past, always with the same excuse: to protect the people of our nation. Yet when are they going to concern themselves with our citizens' civil liberties?" Brown said. "We knew that they had been tapping overseas phone calls without prior knowledge or even court approval, and now we find out that the government is building a secret, massive database that tracks the patterns of domestic phone calls as well. This is simply unacceptable."

U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala, said in an e-mail to The Sun that he has a number of questions if the allegations are valid. The primary question: Are the actions involving domestic and foreign surveillance consistent with the Constitution and Bush's role as commander in chief in time of war?

Stearns also said if there has been domestic surveillance, it would appear that it occurred without a court order or approval under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

"I joined in calling for investigations into NSA activities to ensure that our civil rights are preserved, and these investigations are under way," Stearns said. "I again would urge the administration to clarify its authority and need to collect the information through domestic surveillance, as alleged in this article, without a court order."

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, called for a congressional investigation of the NSA's collection of phone records.

Nelson wants to know how and why phone companies voluntarily turned over to the NSA detailed records of calls their customers reportedly made to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.

"We must make sure our country is secure, but we must also protect our privacy," Nelson said.

Cindy Swirko can be reached at 374-5024 or swirkoc@gvillesun.com

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