GOP chairman backs spying of phone data

GOP chairman backs spying of phone data

HomeUSPolitics Tue Jan 13, 2015 7:33PM

The new Republican chairman of the Congressional intelligence panel is urging lawmakers to extend the administration’s authority to collect citizens’ telephone records before it expires this summer.

Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told Bloomberg News in an interview published on Monday that there is no need to make reforms to the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has repeatedly approved the data collection.

“We don’t want to further encumber intelligence and law enforcement communities who already have a difficult task in tracking those who wish to attack Americans at home and abroad,” he said.

Freedom advocates see the deadline later this year as an opportunity to push reforms to the program that legally allows the National Security Agency collection of Americans’ telephone metadata — including the call times, numbers and durations.

But Nunes said he will persuade his colleagues to reauthorize parts of the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that allow the federal government to massively collect and store telephone records.

The GOP Representative, who from now on will lead the “gang of eight” members of Congress to be briefed on the most sensitive security issues of the homeland, has essentially rejected the idea of reforming America’s vast surveillance state.

He said the US telephone spying program on American people should not be made public because it “loses effectiveness” and that “the vast majority” of Senate Intelligence Committee hearings must remain secret “in order to protect the national security of the US.”

Nunes criticized whistle blowers for revealing the extent of NSA spying on people and said the revelations have made intelligence gathering difficult.

“Leaks of classified programs and activities into the public domain — be it from Edward Snowden, unnamed officials leaking highly classified programs and activities to the press, or WikiLeaks — do tremendous damage to the ability of the intelligence community, law enforcement and the US military to protect the homeland and US interests around the world,” he said.

“So at a time when we need more intelligence to help counter pressing threats all over the globe, I don’t think our top priority should be sharing our sources and methods for gathering that intelligence. Spies can’t be effective spies if you tell everybody they’re spies,” he added.

Nunes also criticized President Barack Obama on a number of issues including his efforts to close Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba; and said it was a mistake for Obama to call the CIA’s interrogation of suspected al Qaeda leaders “torture”.

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