Bloomberg News

Manchin Calls for End to Widespread Anti-Terrorism Surveillance

June 08, 2013

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, indicated that Attorney General Eric Holder, who has been criticized for targeting news organizations, among other issues, should consider resigning. Photographer: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Barack Obama should end the broad surveillance of telephone calls and Internet usage, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said.

“It bothers me, and I think it bothers you and every other American,” Manchin, of West Virginia, said in an interview on “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend on Bloomberg Television. “It should be stopped as far as the broad base that they’re doing. If there’s a profile and targeting that goes on, then fine.”

Manchin, 65, also indicated that Attorney General Eric Holder, who has been criticized for targeting news organizations, among other issues, should consider resigning.

“Whenever you feel that you have lost your effectiveness or may be losing your effectiveness to the detriment of the job that you do,” he said about Holder, “you have to evaluate that and make a decision. And I think we’re at the time now where decisions have to be made.”

The Obama administration and congressional allies have defended the collection of phone data from Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ:US) on all its customers’ calls and the gathering of data on foreign nationals from Internet companies.

“I’m wanting to do everything I can to fight the war on terror,” Manchin said. “There will not be another day in my life, my children or grandchildren’s life they won’t have to be vigilant against terrorists wanting to do us harm. But do you give up everything as an American?”

Liberties Office

Manchin said he agreed with the recommendations of the commission set up to investigate the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to establish a White House Office of Civil Liberties that would be consulted on these kinds of issues. Neither Obama nor his predecessor, George W. Bush, followed through.

“Somebody better be looking at what are my liberties, what are my rights, what are my freedoms,” Manchin said. “What did my founding fathers intend for me to have as an American?”

Manchin said he hadn’t decided how he would vote on the bipartisan immigration bill now before the Senate. He said he was still concerned about the border-security provisions and suggested they needed to be strengthened before he could support the legislation.

“I have to make sure that when I go back home to West Virginia, I can look people in the eye and say, ‘Listen, we have secured the borders,’” he said.

Gun Legislation

The senator said efforts to expand background checks to firearms purchasers at gun shows and over the Internet weren’t over though the legislation he drafted with Republican Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania failed to receive the 60 votes needed to advance in the Senate.

Manchin, who called the bill “something that makes so much sense and it’s common sense,” said he was trying to pick up support from some senators who had voted no.

“As a law-abiding gun owner, I’m not going to sell my gun to a stranger, not going to sell to someone who’s mentally deranged, or to a family member who basically is not responsible,” Manchin said. “I’m at 50-50 to where I think we can pick up five more members.”

Machin, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, cautioned about U.S. involvement in Syria, where the United Nations estimates at least 80,000 have died since a rebel uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in 2011. After the U.S. ousted Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Iran gained in influence and democracy didn’t take hold, Manchin said.

“We’ve proven that, if you remove one, there’s something as bad, if not worse,” Manchin said. “What’s Syria’s neighbors feeling about this? That’s their neighborhood.”

Manchin said the Democrats “have a shot” at keeping the West Virginia Senate seat being vacated by retiring Jay Rockefeller, though it “will be a challenge.”

He predicted the party will find a “very viable” candidate to oppose Republican Representative Shelley Moore Capito, considered the front-runner for the Senate seat.

“It will be a challenge to hold that seat,” he said. “I understand that. Our state demographics have changed.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net


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