National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden on Thursday disputed Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) claim that the government’s phone record collection program is not “surveillance.”
“Today, no telephone in America makes a call without leaving a record with the NSA. Today, no Internet transaction enters or leaves America without passing through the NSA’s hands,” Snowden said in a statement Thursday.
“Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not surveillance. They’re wrong.”
Snowden didn’t mention Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, by name, but she has said repeatedly that the NSA’s program to collect records on all U.S. phone calls is not a surveillance program.
“The call-records program is not surveillance,” she wrote in an op-ed in USA Today this week. “It does not collect the content of any communication, nor do the records include names or locations.”
She said the NSA only collects phone numbers, call times and call durations.
“The Supreme Court has held this ‘metadata’ is not protected under the Fourth Amendment,” Feinstein wrote, referring to the court’s 1972 decision in Smith v. Maryland.
The existence of the phone record collection program was one the most controversial revelations from Snowden’s leaks earlier this year. Many lawmakers, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), have expressed outrage that the NSA is collecting records on millions of Americans not under any suspicion of wrongdoing.
Snowden provided his statement to the American Civil Liberties Union to promote a rally the group is holding on Saturday along with other civil liberties groups in Washington.
“Now it’s time for the government to learn from us,” said Snowden, who is currently living in Russia.