WASHINGTON–In the wake of revelations the U.S. government secretly asked Verizon for massive amounts of data on tens of millions of phone calls, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) asked Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday if the National Security Agency monitored calls placed from the Capitol.
Holder said there was no intention to “spy” on Congress and said he would not go into details on the calls in a public setting.
Kirk quizzed Holder during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing where Holder was testifying on the Justice Department fiscal 2014 budget request.
Kirk used the occasion to ask Holder about the government Verizon snooping.
“Mr. Attorney General, I want to take you to the Verizon scandal and — which I understand takes us to possibly monitoring up to 120 million calls. You know, when government bureaucrats are sloppy, they’re usually really sloppy. Want to just ask, could you assure to us that no phone inside the Capitol were monitored of members of Congress that would give a future executive branch, if they started pulling this kind of thing off, would give them unique leverage over the legislature?
Holder replied, “With all due respect, Senator, I don’t think this is an appropriate setting for me to discuss that issue. I’d be more than glad to come back in a — in an appropriate setting to discuss the issues that you have raised,” noting they were speaking in public.
Kirk, a Naval intelligence officer, was not satisfied with Holder’s answer.
Said Kirk, “I would interrupt you and say the correct answer would be say no, we stayed within our lane, and I’m assuring you we did not spy on members of Congress.”
Holder didn’t want to discuss the secret snooping in public and offered some assurances about spying on members of Congress and the Supreme Court.
“And I would be more than glad, as I said, in an appropriate setting, to deal with the question. And Senator Kirk, please do not take my response as something — as being anything but respectful of the concerns that you have raised. There has been no intention to do anything of that nature — that is, to spy on members of Congress, to spy on members of the Supreme Court.”