NSA seizing Verizon records in new scandal Udall has long hinted at

Politics

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, during a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee last year.

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DENVER -- Another major Washington scandal is breaking and Colorado Sen. Mark Udall is right in the middle of it.

On Wednesday, Britain's Guardian newspaper published a classified federal court order showing that the National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of customers of Verizon.

"The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately," the Guardian reports.

So where does Udall fit in?

He and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, both Democrats, have long been warning Americans about the possibility that the federal government is using orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to engage in surveillance that would shock and anger many Americans.

Udall released a statement on the news story -- some Washington insiders even speculate that his office may have helped leak the story itself, something Udall's staff denies.

"While I cannot corroborate the details of this particular report, this sort of widescale surveillance should concern all of us and is the kind of government overreach I've said Americans would find shocking," Udall said.

“As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, it’s why I will keep fighting for transparency and appropriate checks on the surveillance of Americans.”

Udall, a Democrat who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, faces reelection in 2014. Thus far, he does not have a single declared Republican opponent.

On Thursday, an unnamed senior White House official defended the Obama administration and told POLITICO that the policy, used for monitoring terrorists, has approval from "all three branches of government."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-GA, the two ranking members on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Thursday that the panel has been regularly briefed about the surveillance of cell phone records and that it's been going on for some time.

"As far as I know, this is the exact three-month renewal of what has been in place for the past seven years," Feinstein asid.

The FISA court granted the renewal to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

"This renewal is carried out by the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] under the business records section of the Patriot Act. Therefore it is lawful. It has been briefed to Congress."

"This is nothing new," said Chambliss. "This has been going on for seven years; every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this. To my knowledge there has not been any citizen who has registered a complaint. It has proved meritorious because we have collected significant information on bad guys, but only on bad guys, over the years."

On Thursday, Udall told FOX31 Denver that he simply disagrees with some of his colleagues and has tried to expose the cell phone monitoring without releasing classified information.

"There are secret interpretations of the Patriot Act and FISA in Washington that ordinary Americans don't know about," Udall said. "I think the White House has a responsibility to be honest with the American people about its views on what it's allowed to do when it comes to balancing our national security with our civil liberties."

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