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Our View: Call your representative about NSA

Published: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

We print the names and contact information of our area’s federal lawmakers on this page each Monday for a reason.

Other than by voting, the best way we can have an effect on the way our government operates is through contacting our legislators and making sure they hear our voices.

Especially considering that the federal government already is keeping track of our phone calls.

Last week, we learned that the National Security Agency has been collecting phone records of hundreds of millions of American phone customers. This government says it is granted this power under the Patriot Act, which was renewed by Congress as recently as 2011. Officials say the program has been ongoing for seven years and is re-authorized every 90 days by a secret court.

All of this is done in the name of thwarting terrorism. Supporters say the government must have information about every call made in the country, including where the caller was when the call was made, what number they called, and for how long.

It’s another blemish for President Barack Obama, whose administration already has allowed the IRS to target conservative groups and the Justice Department to conduct a wide-ranging search of Associated Press phone records.

Obama defends the program, as do several in Congress, saying they don’t listen to the content of the calls or people’s names. Yet all of this has been done in secret for years, and the only reason we know now is because it was leaked. The longer government spy agencies are allowed access to this information, the less difficult it becomes for them to continue to expand how they use it.

Law-abiding American citizens are guaranteed a reasonable expectation of privacy by the Fourth Amendment, which says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause.”

If the government’s secret collection of your phone records in the name of fighting terrorism sounds like a broad and disturbing intrusion into your privacy, call your elected federal representatives:

• U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D): 202-224-2152 or 312-353-4952.

• U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R): 202-2242854 or 312-886-3506.

• U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-6): 202-225-4561 or 630-232-0006.

• U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-14): 202-225-2976 or 630-232-7104.

Contact them, and tell them how you feel.

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