Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) today released the following joint statement:
"A primary mission of the U.S. intelligence community is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, and Congress works closely with the executive branch to ensure that the authorities necessary to keep our country safe are in place. One of these authorities is the "business records' provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act under which the executive branch is authorized to collect "metadata' concerning telephone calls, such as a telephone number or the length of a call. This law does not allow the government to listen in on the content of a phone call.
"The executive branch's use of this authority has been briefed extensively to the Senate and House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, and detailed information has been made available to all members of Congress prior to each congressional reauthorization of this law.
"Ensuring security, however, must be consistent with respect for the constitutional rights of all Americans. The alleged FISA Court order contained in the Guardian article does not give the government authority to listen in on anyone's telephone call, nor does it provide the government with the content of any communication or the name of any subscriber. As with other FISA authorities, all information the government may receive under such an order would be subject to strict limitations. While our courts have consistently recognized that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in this type of metadata information and thus no search warrant is required to obtain it, any subsequent effort to obtain the content of an American's communications would require a specific order from the FISA Court.
"The intelligence community has successfully used FISA authorities to identify terrorists and those with whom they communicate, and this intelligence has helped protect the nation. The threat from terrorism remains very real and these lawful intelligence activities must continue, with the careful oversight of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government."