The NSA spying program is coming under fire from members of Congress who say they did not authorize or intend for the National Security Agency to build a database of all phone calls made by Americans.
The program is coming under increasing fire since whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed details of the domestic spying plan. Members of Congress are now calling for the surveillance authority of the federal government to be curbed, setting up a clash with the White House that has defended the program.
Top-ranking security officials in the Obama administration have defended the NSA program, saying it stopped several potential terrorist threats and is necessary to keep Americans safe. They also have the capability to expand the program beyond phone calls, retaining the potential to build a database of Americans’ credit card transactions and internet searches.
The opposition came from a House Judiciary Committee hearing this week, one of the first congressional debates on the NSA spying program.
Congressman James Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin, said that Congress only meant to authorize the NSA to obtain information directly related to security investigations, not track the calls of all Americans to be stored in a huge database.
The NSA spying program has led to drama over whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is currently in waiting at the Moscow airport hoping to make it to one of the Latin American nations offering his asylum. He has logistical problems in getting there, however, and is now facing pressure from Russia to make a decision.
Back in the United States, backlash against the NSA spying program is growing. At a closed-door event this week, former President Jimmy Carter assailed the NSA program, saying Snowden was right to release the information and that the United States no longer has a “functional democracy.”
The former president has been a harsh critic of the surveillance program, which he believes strips away the rights of Americans.
“I believe the invasion of privacy has gone too far,” Carter told CNN about the NSA spying program. “And I believe the secrecy around it was excessive.”