Illinois lawmakers call for hearings on phone record collections
Friday, May 12, 2006
WASHINGTON (CNS) - Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, said Thursday he is "very bothered" about a report that the National Security Agency has been secretly collecting phone records of tens of millions of Americans.
He and other Illinois lawmakers of both parties are calling for hearings to find out more about the program, reported in Thursday's USA Today.
A member of the House Intelligence Committee, LaHood said he had no knowledge of the program before reading the newspaper report.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier Thursday, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the committee should bring in the telephone companies for questioning.
"Currently, most members of Congress are somewhere between benign neglect and blissful ignorance when it comes to this administration's overreaching."
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., also called for an investigation.
"Congress should investigate these new revelations and Republicans and Democrats should agree that this surveillance program needs to be brought under legal oversight so that someone is watching the watchers and protecting the privacy of innocent Americans."
Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, who represents part of Springfield, agreed that Congress needs more information. But he said he didn't want to criticize the program until he heard more.
"We want it if it catches the bad guys. We don't want it if it impinges on our personal information. Is there a way to do both? I'm not sure and that's why hearings and more information will help us make that decision," Shimkus said in an interview.
"Woe be it for the public policy folks like me to say, 'Shut this program down,' and then something happens six months later," only to discover that "we had information in that database that could have stopped it," he said.
LaHood voiced concern about the reach of the program described by USA Today. Last year, both LaHood and Shimkus were generally supportive of President Bush's decision to allow warrantless eavesdropping on international phone calls and e-mails of people in the United States.
But on Thursday LaHood said that the phone record collection program described by USA Today "includes many more citizens than the wiretap program disclosed in December."