House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., expressed concern that President Obama's proposed reforms to the National Security Agency brought “uncertainty” to the intelligence community and would make Americans more unsafe.
“We really did need a decision on Friday and what we got was lots of uncertainty,” said Rogers on CNN's “State of the Union.”
The chairman said he had spoken to members of the intelligence community who told him that “this new level of uncertainty is already having a bit of an impact on our ability to protect Americans by finding terrorists.”
Obama in a long-awaited speech on Friday laid out reforms to the NSA's surveillance of phone and internet data, including requiring new secret court approval before the agency can access that information. The president also called for moving the storage of that metadata away from the government.
Obama has called for the Justice Department to deliver a report by March 28 on how to handle or store bulk metadata.
Critics of the NSA say that Obama's reforms do not go far enough to rein in the agency, while supporters of the surveillance programs say that further restrictions could leave Americans vulnerable to terrorism.
Rogers said that Obama had left more questions that could impede the work of intelligence officers.
The intelligence chairman said that requiring the NSA to obtain a secret court warrant to access the metadata provided a different standard than the subpoena that law enforcement agencies would need to access the data if held by a private company.
He said that some in the intelligence community feared that the surveillance programs in question would need to be halted until the legal effect of the president’s changes could be determined.
Rogers also said that Obama’s timeline for the reforms added to the confusion.
“Only in Washington do you announce you have a review board, then announce that you are going to review the review board, and then review the decision in 70 days,” said Rogers.
Rogers said while the president had conceded the programs worked, Obama still had concerns over where the metadata should be stored if not with the government and not with private telecom companies.
“But we are going to find the difference between now and seventy days,” Rogers asked, expressing skepticism.
Rogers staunchly defended the NSA, saying that what leaker Edward Snowden and other critics did not understand was “there was plenty of oversight” already in place to safeguard privacy rights.
“The court reviewed it, Congress reviewed it, DOJ reviewed it, the IG reviewed it and you know what the independent review board found: no abuses, legal program,” he said.