Lawmaker Calls for Renewed Debate Over Patriot Act

An outspoken critic of the government’s electronic surveillance programs, Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, said on Sunday that he was not convinced that a program to collect huge amounts of information about Americans’ phone calls had led to the foiling of any terror plots. He also called for a renewed debate over the Patriot Act, which authorizes much of the data collection.
In making the assertion, Mr. Udall, a Democrat and a member of the House intelligence committee, appeared to be distinguishing the results of that program – which uses metadata associated with phone calls, including numbers called and the duration of conversations – from those of the newly revealed Prism program, which analyzes data collected from foreigners who use Internet services like Facebook and Skype. Several officials have said Prism has been effective.
“It’s unclear to me that we’ve developed any intelligence through the metadata program that has led to the disruption of plots that we couldn’t have developed through other data and other intelligence,” Mr. Udall said on the CNN program “State of the Union.”
Mr. Udall, who for years has criticized electronic data collection by the government as too sweeping, called for a reopening of debate over the Patriot Act and a “fulsome debate” on the limits of government intrusion as it seeks to deter terrorist threats.
Government officials also had sharp words for whoever leaked the documents describing classified surveillance programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post. In an interview with NBC News, James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, warned that the revelations could create serious risks to national security.
“I think we’re very, very concerned about it,” he said in the interview, taped on Saturday. “For me, it is literally – not figuratively – literally gut-wrenching to see this happen, because of the huge, grave damage it does to our intelligence capabilities.”

Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the House intelligence committee, spoke with barely disguised anger about Glenn Greenwald, whose articles in The Guardian newspaper last week described the surveillance programs. He also said that the public needed to know that “the National Security Agency does not listen to Americans’ phone calls, and it is not reading Americans’ e-mails. None of these programs allow that.”
Mr. Greenwald “says that he’s got it all and now is an expert on the program,” Mr. Rogers said on the ABC program “This Week.” “He doesn’t have a clue how this thing works. Neither did the person” – presumably in government – “who released just enough information to literally be dangerous.”
He added, “I absolutely think they should be prosecuted.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, said on the same program that she agreed.
Mr. Greenwald, who appeared earlier on the program, was asked about the criminal report that officials say has been filed in this case by the National Security Agency. Asked whether law enforcement officials had contacted him, he said: “No. And any time they would like to speak to me, I would be more than happy to speak to them, and I will tell them there is this thing called the Constitution.”
Asked about suggestions that the disclosures were reckless, Mr. Greenwald responded, “The only thing we’ve endangered is the reputation of the people in power who are building this massive spying apparatus absent any accountability.”
Ms. Feinstein, a Democrat of California who defends the surveillance programs, cited two declassified cases in which electronic surveillance data had been used – that of David C. Headley, an American who conducted several missions to Mumbai, India, in preparation for a deadly terror attack there, and that of Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan-American who was convicted of seeking to set off backpacks full of explosives in the New York subway. The Mumbai attack was carried out and killed more than 160 people; the subway attack was foiled.
Ms. Feinstein said that she would consider holding hearings about them. “I’m open to doing a hearing every month, if that’s necessary,” she said.
But, she added: “Here’s the rub: The instances where this has produced good – has disrupted plots, prevented terrorist attacks, is all classified, that’s what’s so hard about this.”
Other lawmakers who appeared on the Sunday talk shows were largely supportive of the surveillance programs, often outspokenly so.
Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said that he was not bothered by the surveillance. He said on the CNN program “State of the Union” that the terror threat was growing steadily amid deepening turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa but that further Congressional and executive review of the programs was “entirely appropriate.”

By Brian Knowl Ton
Source:
http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/lawmaker-calls-for-renewed-debate-over-patriot-act/?hp

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