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Many Local Lawmakers Have Signed Off On Domestic Surveillance

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Many local lawmakers voted to authorize and reauthorize The Patriot Act, despite protests against NSA surveillance.
Victoria Pickering: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vpickering/4607909002/
Many local lawmakers voted to authorize and reauthorize The Patriot Act, despite protests against NSA surveillance.

Lawmakers in the region are having mixed reactions to reports that the Obama Administration potentially tracked phone records of tens of millions of Americans.

Politicians aren't a shy group, but after reports came out that the National Security Agency has access to the phone records of Verizon's more than 100 million customers, many lawmakers became uncharacteristically close lipped.

"I need to know a little bit more before I talk about it," says Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.).

Other reactions were more blunt, like that of Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).

"I mean I can understand why Russia does that, why Iran does that, why China does that," Moran says. "I can't understand why a democracy does that, and why we have set up the tools to enable them to do that."

Officials in the Obama Administration and the heads of Congress Intelligence Committees are defending the sweeping surveillance program, saying it's essential for national security. Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) says he's always been troubled that lawmakers are forbidden from airing concerns about the program.

"I would have felt a lot better if I, as a congressman, could go look at them and then if I saw something I thought it was bad it was perfectly permissible to take the floor of the House and rail," Griffith says. "But for security reasons, I can't talk about them and it's all done behind closed doors."

Authorized by the Patriot Act, the order came from a secret court overseeing foreign and domestic surveillance, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Experts say this is the tip of the iceberg, and the government collects far more information on American citizens than is revealed.

But Philip Bump, from the Atlantic Wire, reminds us that Congress has consistently voted to expand the government's authority to conduct domestic surveillance. Bump has compared the voting records of members of Congress, as seen below.

Lawmakers in both parties are now calling for hearings into the secret program.

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