Bay State Democrats are slamming the Obama administration's actions as
"un-American" for secretly collecting phone records from millions of average
citizens, demanding the federal government stop its sweeping spy programs.
"This is absolutely un-American as far as I'm concerned, and I'm a strong supporter of the president," said U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Somerville. "The one thing about America is you have the freedom to think what you want and do what you want without the government interfering. I do not want our society to be one where the government feels free to check your private phone records anytime it pleases."
U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Lowell, called reports of the government collecting millions of citizens' phone records "alarming."
"The administration needs to provide answers expeditiously," she said. "Privacy in this digital age is certainly not a trivial matter and Congress has a responsibility to get to the bottom of this."
A secret court order obtained by Britain's Guardian newspaper revealed Verizon is compelled to give the National Security Agency phone records for millions of customers on an "ongoing, daily basis." The newspaper also reported NSA has access to Internet giants such as Facebook and Google, to collect search histories, emails, file transfers and live chats.
News of the expansive spying programs comes on the heels the Justice Department press-monitoring scandal -- in which feds seized phone records for reporters at the Associated Press, as well as email, phone and electronic access card records for a Fox News reporter. The Obama administration also is reeling from the IRS scandal, involving the harassment of conservative groups and lavish IRS conferences. The scandals have shocked staunch Obama supporters as well as Republicans.
Capuano, who has called for the repeal of the Patriot Act, said the secret federal warrants should be limited to cases such as the Boston bombing -- not for broad scans of average citizens' phone records.
"I don't exactly know what they think they're looking for. It's government overreach for no particular reason," said Capuano, adding, "I'm speaking on a Verizon phone to you now, so be careful what you say."
U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey, who is running for U.S. Senate, said in a statement he has "serious concerns and "will continue my work to protect the privacy of individuals from excessive requests for wireless records and information." GOP candidate Gabriel Gomez declined comment yesterday.
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