Marc Ambinder

Congress' intel heads endorse NSA program

Just got this statement from the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Mike Rogers, and the ranking Democrat, Dutch Ruppersberger. They contend that the NSA's collection programs are legal because Congress knows about them and the courts sanction them, and that they're necessary. It does not provide any additional information on how the government uses the data it collects and stores. How and when? It may be hard for the government to answer, but I suspect it will not get away with evasion.

The collection described with yesterday's disclosure of a purported court order is consistent with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as passed by Congress, executed by the Executive Branch, and approved by a Federal Court. The FISA business records authorities are used to track foreign intelligence threats and international terrorists. It is important that the American people understand that this information does not include the content of anyone's conversations and does not reveal any individual or organization names. This important collection tool does not allow the government to eavesdrop on the phone calls of the American people. When these authorities are used, they are governed by court-approved processes and procedures. Moreover, the use of these authorities is reviewed and approved by federal judges every 90 days. Additionally, the Committee routinely reviews all FISA activities. Importantly, these activities have led to the successful detection and disruption of at least one terrorist plot on American soil, possibly saving American lives. Understanding the necessity of the public's trust in our intelligence activities and out of an abundance of caution, the Committee will review this matter to ensure that it too complies with the laws established to protect the American people.

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