Republican Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold grilled officials from the Department of Justice and the National Security Agency during a Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday on Capitol Hill on oversight of the FISA court.
"How is having every phone call that I make to my wife, to my daughter relevant to any terror investigation," Farenthold said to Deputy Attorney General James Cole.
"I don't know that every call you make," Cole said before being cut off by Farenthold.
"But you've got them," the Congressman interjected.
"I don't think that they would be relevant and we would probably not seek to query them because we wouldn't have the information that we need to make that query," Cole said.
"The fourth amendment specifically was designed to prohibit general warrants. How could collecting every piece of phone data be perceived as anything but a general warrant," Farenthold then asked Cole.
"Because the phone data according to the Supreme Court is not something within which citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy," said Cole.
"So do I have a reasonable expectation of privacy in any information that I share with a company? My Google searches? The emails I send? Do I have a reasonable expectation of privacy in anything but maybe a letter I hand deliver to my wife," the Congressman asked.
"Those are all dependent on the facts and circumstances of the documents we are talking about," said Cole. "In the case of metadata, the Supreme Court specifically ruled that there was not coverage by the fourth amendment because of no reasonable expectation of privacy."
"I just want to point out how concerned I am about this data being so easily available and just with the stroke of a pen Congress and the president could change the search criteria and change the definition of a terrorist," said Farenthold. "The fact that the data exists in the hands of the government. We saw what the IRS has done with tax returns targeting people for political beliefs."
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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