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Debate over NSA programs gets renewed attention amid terror threat

Mgn Online
Sunday, August 4, 2013 - 11:12am

There's no proof that the current terror threats in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond were uncovered through a federal program that monitors domestic telephone data, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday.

"There's no indication, unless I'm proved wrong later, that that program which collects vast amounts of ... domestic telephone data contributed to information about this particular plot," Schiff said on CNN's "State of the Union."

The scope of the secret program set off a political firestorm over civil liberties when a leaked document detailing it was published this summer. Officials say the program only collects metadata of domestic phone calls - under federal court permission - not actual conversations.

Schiff has criticized the program, and he joined many Democrats and some Republicans in an attempt to pass a proposal to curb the phone surveillance program. The measure was narrowly defeated late last month.

Another program that was leaked in June revealed that the National Security Agency could monitor online activity by suspected terrorists abroad.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said Sunday that the terror threats, which forced the U.S. to close 22 embassies and consulates Sunday, further verify why the NSA surveillance programs need to be kept in place.

"The NSA program is proving its worth yet again," he said on "State of the Union."

"To the members of Congress who want to reform the NSA program, great," he told Candy Crowley, CNN's chief political correspondent. "If you want to gut it, you make us much less safe, and you're putting our nation at risk. We need to have policies in place that can deal with the threats that exist, and they are real, and they are growing."

Rep. Peter King, R-New York, meanwhile hit back at the idea that the government is acting this weekend in a way to divert attention from the controversial NSA programs.

"It's absolutely crazy to say there's any conspiracy here," he said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." "The government would have been totally negligent if it did not take the action it's taken. Whether or not there was any controversy over the NSA at all, all of these actions would have been taken." 

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