Senators React to Washington Post Report on National Security Letters
On the Sunday talk shows, several senators were pressed to comment on the Washington Post's investigative report showing that the FBI issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year. As reported in the New York Times, the Associated Press and a follow up story in the Post:
NBC's Meet the Press
"We should not ever give up freedom on the basis of fear, and any freedom that we give up should be limited in time and limited in scope," Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican who is a member of the Judiciary Committee.
Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat from Massachusetts, and Coburn said the expanded use of security letters was a "clear concern" and that information gathered on citizens should be destroyed if it does not lead to a criminal charge. "Of course it ought to be destroyed," Mr. Kennedy said. He also said Congress should move to include measures in the Senate version of the Patriot Act reauthorization - but not in the House bill - that would reinstitute the "very careful protections" for destroying personal information.
Mr. Coburn added that he "certainly will" take steps to ensure that the documents are destroyed immediately. Mr. Coburn and other Republicans said they wanted to explore the bureau's use of the letters as part of a House-Senate conference working to make most parts of the antiterrorism law permanent.
ABC's "This Week"
Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware who is also a member of the Judiciary Committee, said that "based on the fact there's 30,000 of these letters, which is a stunner to me, it appears to me that this is, if not abused, being close to abused."
Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, agreed, saying the government's expanded power highlights the risks of balancing national security against individual rights. "It does point up how dangerous this can be," said Hagel, who appeared with Biden . He also said he was worried about "the overreach of the Patriot Act," adding, "I have always been concerned about centralization of power and eroding individual rights."