Sen. Jon Kyl on NSA Fallout

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," May 11, 2006, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: An unhappy President Bush setting the record straight, after another national security leak makes the morning papers, saying that the NSA data collection is legal and today's headlines make us all a little less safe.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every time sensitive intelligence is leaked, it hurts our ability to defeat this enemy. Our most important job is to protect the American people from another attack. And we will do so within the laws our country.


CAVUTO: All right, welcome, everybody, on a busy day. I'm Neil Cavuto. And this is "Your World."

USA Today reporting that the National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans since 9/11. The report says the NSA is not listening to calls, but is tracking any trends that may point to terrorism.

The head of the Senate Judiciary Committee is calling for hearings on all of this.

One of the members of that committee joins me now, Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona.

Senator, how big a deal is this?

SEN. JON KYL, R-ARIZ.: Well, as the president said, it hurts when people leak information about how we're trying to collect intelligence against the enemy. Why give the enemy our game plan?

In the war against the terrorists, intelligence is our biggest asset. And every time they learn about a new technique, it hurts.

Secondly, there is nothing wrong with what's being done here. In fact, every cops-and-robbers show that you see in prime-time talks about this same kind of thing. They have a telephone number. Let's run a trace and see who else he called or who called him. It's standard criminal investigative practice.

And if we find a scrap of paper on a terrorist with a phone number on it, you bet we're going to check to see if we know where that telephone number might have been connected to, to try to find out what connections this person has.

CAVUTO: Senator, are you worried about who might have leaked this to USA Today?

KYL: Absolutely. And they ought to find out who does this leaking, because it hurts us, and we've got to find these terrorists.

And let us be very clear. Nobody is talking about eavesdropping here. This has nothing whatsoever to do with about what people have said to each other in a telephone conversation or any kind of electronic...

CAVUTO: But how do we know that, Senator? How do we know that?

KYL: Well, because the president has said that is not the kind of program that we're talking about here, and because you have the Intelligence Committees of the House and Senate and the leadership of the House and Senate briefed on what these programs are. And nobody has told you any different.

And, in fact, Senator Feinstein today, in the Judiciary Committee — a member of the Intelligence Committee — made it clear we're not talking about intercepting communications or content here, merely the telephone number.

CAVUTO: Do you think that this hurts General Michael Hayden's plans to become the new CIA director?

KYL: If it does, it shouldn't.


This issue has actually been one that has helped your party, Senator - - that is, this idea that you're more for protecting people from getting killed than — than the kind of things we have to sacrifice in day-to-day life.

But this is a little different, is it not, because it involves potentially tens of millions of phone calls, affecting tens of millions of Americans. That's the way it's being read to the American people.

Is that a proper read?


KYL: It's an improper read, and that's the problem. The USA Today story that broke this was very, very cleverly written and, by the way, very, very misleading.

Nobody has an expectation that — what we're talking about is information that's on your phone bill: the telephone numbers that you called and how long the call lasted. That's it.

And the Supreme Court held 25 years ago, there's no expectation of privacy in that. In other words, people know that lots of people see their phone bill before it's stuffed in an envelope and sent to them.

That's the kind of records we're talking about. We are not talking about the content of any kind of communication.

CAVUTO: I guess I would be a little worried about people knowing who I'm calling. What business is it of theirs?

KYL: Well, it's not anybody's business, unless you are a terrorist and they're trying to find out who you called or who called you.


KYL: And that's when this information is connected up.

Remember, after 9/11, all of the criticism? You failed to connect the dots.

Well, this is connecting the dots. You have a phone number from a terrorist. Who did the terrorist call or who called him? That's connecting the dots.


KYL: It's legal. It's not a Fourth Amendment violation. It's done in criminal investigations every day.

CAVUTO: Senator, thank you very much.

KYL: You're very welcome.

CAVUTO: Senator Jon Kyl on Capitol Hill.

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