“Lawmakers called on Sunday for a review of the government’s monitoring of phone and Internet activities, and one Democrat urged a reopening of the Patriot Act, the post-September 11, 2001 law that gave intelligence agencies broader surveillance powers,” Caren Bohan reports for Reuters. “President Barack Obama’s administration has come under criticism after the disclosure that the super-secret National Security Agency has been collecting massive amounts of data from private companies on phone calls and emails.”

“As lawmakers debated the implications of the U.S. surveillance programs that were first reported in Britain’s Guardian and The Washington Post, the Guardian identified a 29-year-old former CIA technical worker as the source of the leaks about the spy agencies,” Bohan reports. “The Guardian said its source, Edward Snowden, had asked the newspaper to reveal his identity. The surveillance activity has stirred a debate over privacy rights in the United States.”

Bohan reports, “Senator Mark Udall, a member of the Intelligence Committee, said he thought another look at the 2001 U.S.A Patriot Act was warranted. ‘I think we ought to reopen the Patriot Act and put some limits on the amount of data that the National Security (Agency) is collecting,’ Udall told the ABC program ‘This Week.’ … Still, two senior lawmakers said the surveillance programs had helped to prevent attacks on the United States and have been subjected to strict oversight. ‘These programs are within the law,’ said Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told ‘This Week.’ ‘Part of our obligation is keeping Americans safe,’ added Feinstein. ‘Human intelligence isn’t going to do it.’”

Bohan reports, “The mining of phone records from millions of American customers of a subsidiary of Verizon Communications drew the most concern from lawmakers. A separate, highly classified program, code-named Prism, has given federal authorities access to data from companies including Google Inc., Apple Inc and Facebook Inc on emails, photos and other files, according to the Washington Post. Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has been one of the most vocal critics of the surveillance. Paul told ‘Fox News Sunday’ he would consider a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the mining of phone records. ‘They are looking at a billion phone calls a day from what I read in the press and that doesn’t sound to me like a modest invasion of privacy. It sounds like an extraordinary invasion of privacy,’ Paul said.”

Read more in the full article here.

Burgess Everett reports for Politico, “Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee is shopping bills that would address some portions of the government monitoring, an aide said, particularly the NSA collection of Verizon phone records. His legislation would likely be similar to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act amendments that he pushed last year with fellow senators like Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).”

“The measures, both of which failed last December, would require the declassification of certain FISA court opinions and require reports on the impact of FISA surveillance on Americans,” Everett reports. “Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he’s likely to support that legislation. ‘We should have done this,’ Durbin said of increasing oversight and transparency on government surveillance. ‘We may not have run into this surprise breaking story these past few days if we did.’”

Everett reports, “Civil libertarians such as Lee and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) called for strengthening privacy protections. After staying largely quiet this week, Wyden and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) issued a joint statement on Friday afternoon blasting the administration’s use of the Patriot Act. The two have hinted for years that Americans would be shocked at how some of its provisions are used. ‘We respectfully but firmly disagree with the way that this program has been described by senior administration officials. After years of review, we believe statements that this very broad Patriot Act collection has been ‘a critical tool in protecting the nation’ do not appear to hold up under close scrutiny,’ the two Intelligence Committee members said. ‘We also disagree with the statement that the broad Patriot Act collection strikes the ‘right balance’ between protecting American security and protecting Americans’ privacy. In our view it does not,’ they added.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: U.S. citizens can join EFF in calling for a full investigation by emailing Congress today via this handy web form.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]