Canton Repository

May 13, 2006

Regula backs hearings on phone call data

By Paul M. Krawzak

Copley News Service

WASHINGTON - Responding to reports that a spy agency has secretly collected records of millions of phone calls made by Americans as part of an effort to find terrorists, Rep. Ralph Regula on Friday endorsed plans for congressional hearings to scrutinize the program.

“We need to have a hearing to find out what the extent of this is, how far-reaching is it,” said Regula, R-Bethlehem Township.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., announced this week he would hold hearings on the program, initiated by the National Security Agency in late 2001.

Although he views protecting privacy as “extremely important,” Regula said it’s also crucial to “protect the people of this nation from terrorists and their activities. And so striking a balance is a challenge.”

The program, described in a USA Today story on Thursday, has drawn expressions of concern from many Republican lawmakers and anger from some Democrats.

The newspaper said the nation’s major telecommunications firms have provided the NSA with records of most Americans’ personal and business phone calls, which the agency is scouring for patterns that could reveal terrorist communications.

The report said the program has not included listening in on domestic calls without a warrant.

Late last year, the New York Times reported the NSA was eavesdropping on international phone calls and e-mails involving people with suspected links to terrorists without the use of a court order.

Regula said he backs that program, despite the protests of some that it violates laws requiring court approval for searches. The White House contends the Constitution gives the president wartime authority to listen in on certain calls involving suspected terrorists without a warrant.

“I want to see the American people protected against the actions, activities of terrorists,” Regula said.

“We know full well that the 9/11 thing had to have a lot of conspiratorial communications to make it happen,” he said, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.