The Guardian started the cascade of national security revelations last week by reporting on the existence of a program that collects data on all phone calls made on the Verizon network. Later in the week, the Post and the Guardian reported the existence of a separate program, code-named PRISM, that collects the Internet data of foreigners from major Internet companies.
Snowden has been working at the NSA for the past four years as an employee of several outside contractors. His leak has set off a debate, both inside and beyond the Beltway, about the value of the government surveillance programs.
On Sunday, Diane Feinstein confirmed that the controversial programs were invaluable in two recent cases of suspected terrorism.
“One of them is the case of David Headley, who went to Mumbai to the Taj (Mahal) Hotel and scoped it out for the terrorist attack,” Feinstein said. “The second is Najibullah Zazi, who lived in Colorado, who made the decision that he was going to blow up a New York subway.”
That explanation wasn’t enough to satisfy some critics. Her Senate Intelligence Committee colleague, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., agreed that the so-called PRISM program, which taps into the Internet usage of foreigners, has “been very effective.” But he said the collection of Americans’ phone metadata has not been so effective.
Udall and two Democrats from Oregon, Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, have emerged as key voices critical of the phone record collection.
Another chief critic of the efforts, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he is looking at filing a lawsuit against the government and called on Americans to join in.
“I’m going to be asking all the Internet providers and all of the phone companies, ask your customers to join me in a class action lawsuit,” Paul said on “Fox News Sunday.” “If we get 10 million Americans saying we don’t want our phone records looked at, then somebody will wake up and say things will change in Washington.”