Commenting on the recent ruling against the NSA, leading politicians have appeared publicly to speak out from both sides of the current debate over NSA’s surveillance program.
On December 16 US District Judge Richard J. Leon of ruled in that DC’s Supreme Court granting an injunction against the NSA’s metadata program for spying.
Senator Mark Udall has spoken out against NSA spying and Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers spoke in favor of the current measures being taken by the government through the National Security Agency.
Appearing on ABC News in a televised interview, Sen. Mark Udall asserted that metadata is private information and is as important and deserves as much protection as other private communications guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.
The Colorado Senator said, “I think that’s private information. I think that if the government is gathering that, the America people ought to know it, we ought to have a discussion about it, and, frankly, I think we ought to re-open the Patriot Act and put some limits on the amount of data that the National Security Administration is collecting.”
Answering the argument that the NSA’s policies do not allow listening to calls and do not allow the NSA to continue pursuing targets if the NSA does not find probable cause, Udall said that he drew the line a little bit differently from President Obama. Udall said that metadata was important and, although the phone companies would always have that information, the NSA is an organization with a different purpose from and greater powers than a phone company, and so should be considered differently. Udall also cited the Fourth Amendment, and pointed out that Americans did not know the extent to which they were being monitored and data about them was being collected.
Regarding the recommendations presented last week to President Obama, Udall said the U.S. ought to adopt all 46 NSA reform recommendations.
GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, offered an opposing perspective on the NSA’s surveillance program. Rogers argued that America had been kept safe by the program against global threats, and that the White House panel had not found any abuse of privacy in its review. “This information is a vital part of our counterterrorism effort,” said Rogers. Rogers maintained that the NSA should retain its data collection, generally, and should only change how phone call data was collected and stored.
Rogers did not believe that the phone data would be better handled in the hands of private phone companies or third party institutions. Rogers stated that there would be more privacy violations if records were put into private hands, because those companies are responsible for providing a service, not for controlling sensitive information.
Rogers also did not believe that requiring court orders for access to data would secure greater privacy for Americans.
Rogers stated his belief that the debate over who should handle the metadata should be a separate debate from the one about the NSA program being continued or not.
Rogers pointed out that the report was “a very important milestone” because it showed that the NSA program did not break any laws. He urged Americans to focus their attention on an honest debate about addressing the threat of “terrorists… blowing up American citizens…” and not a debate about the recent NSA ruling other politicians had taken up as evidence of government breach of trust.
By Day Blakely Donaldson