Asked whether the National Security Agency should collect all communications of U.S. residents at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday, NSA Director General Keith Alexander replied, “I believe it is in the nation’s best interest to put all the phone records into a lockbox – yes.”
Alexander, who was joined by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Deputy Attorney General James Cole, went on to maintain the the NSA’s collect-it-all approach to communications surveillance in the U.S. and around the world is necessary—urging Senators not to be moved by the rising tide of public discontent that has surged since NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed a trove of incriminating evidence through several newspapers, exposing the agency’s unconstitutional surveillance practices.
Alexander blamed “sensational headlines,” not the actual dragnet surveillance practices revealed in the media, for public anger—a notion that seemed to be shared by most of the Senators at the hearing, who are supposed to be in charge of NSA congressional oversight.
Barring questions posed by NSA critics Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), most of the hearing consisted of ‘soft balls’ lobbed at the intelligence chiefs sitting in the not-so-hot seat. As Matt Sledge at The Huffington Post puts it:
And as Glenn Greenwald, the reporter who helped break the Snowden leaks, writes Friday:
And as Kevin Gosztola at FireDogLake reports, “Multiple senators used their time to express the opinion that the media was to blame for sensationalizing what Snowden had exposed when there was nothing corrupt going on at the NSA and oversight was occurring properly.” He adds, “It was a sham of a hearing.”
Feinstein and Chambliss also proposed an NSA reform bill at the hearing but the bill “broadly echoes the small tweaks the intelligence establishment says it will consider, but does not go further,” The Guardian reports.
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