By David Ingram
WASHINGTON | Wed Jul 17, 2013 1:36pm EDT
(Reuters) – U.S. spy agencies went too far when they built a massive database of all daily telephone call records and may have jeopardized political support for the very law they relied on to create it, members of Congress said on Wednesday.
Lawmakers said at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee that they doubted the legal provision had the votes to win renewal before it is set to expire in June 2015.
The warning was the latest evidence of a backlash against U.S. surveillance programs disclosed in the Guardian and the Washington Post last month from information the newspapers were given by former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.
One of those programs is a database of telephone “metadata,” including numbers called and the length and time of calls, going back seven years. U.S. officials said they had used the database only in limited circumstances and that it had proven essential to stopping attacks against civilians.
The database included records about every phone call in the United States, not just those calls involving surveillance targets, lawmakers said.
A surveillance court allowed the data collection based on a legal provision known as Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which was first enacted in October 2001 and authorizes the FBI, with court approval, to seize tangible business records that are relevant to a terrorism investigation.
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