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Lawmakers: US has gotten cellphone info for 7 years, ‘lawful’ program prevented terrorist attack

Posted Jun 6, 2013 1:30 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Responding to news reports about a secret federal court order under which the U.S. government apparently collected cellphone records for tens of millions of Verizon customers, federal lawmakers said Thursday that the National Security Agency program has been ongoing for seven years and thwarted at least one terrorist attack.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who serves as chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, called the program "lawful" under the Patriot Act and said it has been ongoing for seven years, the Washington Post (reg. req.) reports.

A court order first reported by the Guardian apparently requires the NSA to provide the government with daily information about all calls made by U.S. customers within this country and to those customers from outside the country. Only the phone number and duration of calls is provided under the court order, not what was said, according to the Post and other news reports.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) credited the program with preventing at least one terrorist attack:

"Within the last few years, this program was used to stop a terrorist attack in the United States. We know that," he said. "It’s important. It fills in a little seam that we have. And it’s used to make sure that there is not an international nexis to any terrorism event if there may be one ongoing. So in that regard, it is a very valuable thing.”

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