A man uses his smartphone in Hong Kong, June 16, 2013.
Kin Cheung/AP

Congressional leaders debate NSA data collection program


Congressional leaders spoke Sunday about a recent report recommending major changes to the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance programs. 

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), chair of House Intelligence Committee defended the NSA’s data collection programs on ABC’s “This Week.” The report, commissioned by President Obama in the wake of revelations about the way the NSA amasses and stores Americans’ data, recommended 46 changes to the government’s information collection. 

Rogers dismissed a recommendation that cell phone data remain in the custody of private companies, who could then hand over information after the government obtained a court order. “I think it opens it up to more privacy violations when the company holds it,” he said. “These are business records, not private records of content, so they’re not listening to phone calls.”

The report was released two days after a federal judge ruled that the NSA’s bulk data collection program most likely violates the constitution. The ruling was the first big victory for opponents of the surveillance program since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents revealing the extent of the agency’s data gathering. 

Rogers also ripped into Snowden, calling his recent letter to Brazil making his case for permanent asylum ”treason.” 

Democrats used their Sunday appearances to support program reforms.

Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat who, with fellow Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon has led opposition to domestic spying in the Senate, said on “This Week” that Obama should consider adopting all 46 of the report’s recommendations.

“It’s time to have real reform, not a veneer of reform,” Udall said. He also said that the NSA’s collection efforts do not “fit the standard in the Fourth Amendment of unreasonable search and seizure.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, also supported changes to NSA programs on CNN’s State of the Union. He said, “I think you’re going to find backing off some, making some changes that are going to keep us secure and safe.”

Under the currenct system, Manchin said, “Big Brother is truly watching you.”