WASHINGTON — Sen. Al Franken said he wants to learn more about the news Thursday that the federal government has a program in place to cull Americans’ cell phone records from providers.
Franken, the chairman of the Senate’s Privacy, Technology and the Law Subcommittee, said he’d learned about “programs like this one” through classified briefings before, but he still had questions about the National Security Agency’s practice of requesting records from cellular companies like Verizon.
“We have to see what safeguards there are and how this program is structured, and how this data is used and whether it’s stored, for example,” he said.
On Thursday, the UK’s Guardian reported on a secret April court order requiring Verizon to turn over the “metadata” associated with its users’ cell phone calls: where the user was, who they were talking to, how long the conversation lasted, etc.
Even as privacy advocates demanded more information on the order, the White House defended the program as critical to U.S. counterterrorism operations, and lawmakers in both parties said the same.
The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee went as far as to say such data was used to prevent a case of domestic terrorism in the United States within the last few years.
Franken was on the way to an intelligence briefing on Thursday afternoon. He said the matter “may very well be” a future topic for his privacy subcommittee to consider.
“I want to learn a lot more about it,” he said. “I’d like the administration to be as transparent as absolutely possible.”
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry