House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers defended the National Security Agency's telephone surveillance program and pushed back against an administration review that took issue with how the data that is collected is stored.
The Michigan Republican said in an interview on ABC's “This Week” that the review of the program, initiated by President Obama, proved the value of the information the NSA has been collecting, and questioned whether the data on telephone calls would be secure and protect Americans' privacy if it was not housed by the NSA. Some suggest that the NSA continue to mine the data, but that the data be stored by private telecommunications firms that handle the phone calls.
Rogers said the presidential report validated the NSA program by stating that it is “vital” to U.S. national security. But he also criticized the review, noting that those who conducted the review didn't talk to the FBI about the value of certain programs that they were against.
“This is not the holy grail of reports,” Rogers said Sunday. “But I do think it crossed a very important milestone in saying, hey, no scandal, no law-breaking. Now let's just have an honest debate about where we think we ought to go in trying to stop terrorists from blowing up American citizens here in the United States.”
However, Sen. Mark Udall took issue with Rogers’ characterizations of the report. The Colorado Democrat, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the justification to continue the NSA program without significant changes “fell apart.”
Udall took a swipe at Rogers’ subtle criticism of the presidential panel that conducted a review. The House Intelligence chairman, himself a former FBI agent, said on "This Week" that the commission was comprised of law professors who failed to talk to the FBI about the value of the NSA’s phone collection data; Udall said the people that conducted the review are respected and knowledgeable constitutional scholars.
Udall said the loss of trust in U.S. intelligence agencies has degraded homeland security and meet global security threats.
“We don’t do that by bulk data collection that violates the privacy of Americans, that’s unconstitutional and is shown to not be effective,” Udall said Sunday on ABC. “The NSA has over-reached; we need to quickly move to adopt the 46 recommendations of the president’s panel.”
Udall conceded that the NSA has not abused the data program, but said the “potential for abuse is always there.” That point of view matched that of Mike Morell, who served as acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency until this past August.
“It's doing exactly what its government asked it to do,” Morell said during an interview of CBS' “Face the Nation.” “There was no abuse here.”
Zack Colman contributed to this report.