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Obama once opposed phone record collection

June 6, 2013 at 4:58 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, June 6 (UPI) -- As a U.S. senator, President Barack Obama opposed the type of mass collection of phone records his administration is conducting, political observers say.

Obama co-sponsored the SAFE Act, introduced by former Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, which would have amended the Patriot Act to require the government to have "specific and articulable facts" to show a person is an "agent of a foreign power" before seizing phone records, The Hill reported Thursday.

The bill, which was referred to the Judiciary Committee in 2005 but never received a vote, would have made illegal the FBI's collection of U.S. Verizon customers' phone records, The Hill said.

The Obama administration Thursday defended its collection of the telephone records of millions of Americans as part of U.S. counter-terrorism efforts, after the British publication The Guardian Wednesday published a secret court order authorizing collection of the phone records.

"There is a robust legal regime in place governing all activities conducted pursuant to the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters traveling on Air Force One to North Carolina. "That regime has been briefed to and approved by the court. And activities authorized under the Act are subject to strict controls and procedures under oversight of the Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] Court to ensure that they comply with the Constitution and the laws of the United States, and appropriately protect privacy and civil liberties."

The program requires Verizon Business Services to give the FBI an "ongoing, daily" download of "all call detail records," including caller and recipient locations, call time and duration, the court order leaked to The Guardian said. It does not require Verizon to divulge phone numbers or communication contents.

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