House Panel Questions Eavesdropping Program The House Judiciary Committee questions the Director of National Intelligence and other witnesses about whether civil liberties are protected when federal agents eavesdrop on terrorism suspects.
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House Panel Questions Eavesdropping Program

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House Panel Questions Eavesdropping Program

House Panel Questions Eavesdropping Program

House Panel Questions Eavesdropping Program

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The House Judiciary Committee questions the Director of National Intelligence and other witnesses about whether civil liberties are protected when federal agents eavesdrop on terrorism suspects.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

T: NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.

ARI SHAPIRO: House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers called the legislation...

SHAPIRO: ...this broken law.

SHAPIRO: While Ken Weinstein of the Justice Department called it...

BLOCK: ...significant step in the right direction.

SHAPIRO: Last month, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell told a newspaper that fewer than 100 Americans' phones and e-mails have been tapped. Chairman Conyers wanted to get more specific.

SHAPIRO: Let me put it like this. How many have been overheard? I mean, you've got minimization techniques. You wouldn't have it if somebody wasn't being overheard.

SHAPIRO: McConnell could not tell the chairman exactly how many Americans have been unintentionally overheard.

BLOCK: It's a very small number considering that there are billions of transactions every day. So, we look at it in...

SHAPIRO: Well, would it be asking too much for this committee all cleared for top secret to be given a briefing on it?

BLOCK: Sure. We have to do that.

SHAPIRO: We have to know.

SHAPIRO: Democrats are also worried that the temporary law's broad wording lets the president search Americans' homes and open their mail without a warrant.

T: If we're writing a new law anyway, why not explicitly say that mail and property searches are not allowed without a court order?

SHAPIRO: Those things that you don't think you're authorized to do and aren't seeking authorization to do, we specifically and affirmably indicate, clearly you can't do.

SHAPIRO: The Justice Department's Ken Weinstein was noncommittal.

BLOCK: Perfectly happy to engage with you on that process, and I guess I would just say...

SHAPIRO: A healing process.

BLOCK: In the context, though, of the recognition that there's going to be - there is ample congressional oversight. There's FISA court oversight.

SHAPIRO: National Intelligence Director McConnell recently said each wiretap application takes 200 hours of work. Democrat Jerry Nadler pointed to a recent testimony by the man who runs the Justice Department office in charge of submitting warrant applications.

SHAPIRO: What he was saying is that most of the work that has to be done has to be done whether you need a warrant or not.

SHAPIRO: Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.

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