August 18th, 2013
12:12 PM ET
8 months ago

Lawmakers: NSA reform needed

(CNN) - Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan said Sunday he's hopeful the House will have another chance to vote on a measure that would curb the National Security Agency.

The Washington Post reported Friday that an internal NSA audit showed that the agency broke privacy rules "thousands of times each year," by making illegal interceptions of phone calls and e-mails, using methods later deemed illegal, and not fully reporting the extent of the agency's errors.

The report renewed calls from lawmakers to dig further into the agency's operations.

"The system is not working," Amash said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"Americans were told by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that there were zero privacy violations, and we know that's not true," he continued. "Americans were assured by the president and others that the (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court had significant oversight, and we've heard from the chief judge of the FISA court who says that's not true."

The House last month narrowly defeated a measure drafted by Amash that would have restricted the NSA's federal surveillance program that monitors domestic phone records and was exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Following the Post's latest report, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said Friday the Senate Judiciary Committee he chairs will hold a hearing on the new revelation.

In a call with reporters Friday, John DeLong – the NSA's director of compliance - acknowledged "mistakes occur," even as he insisted only a "tiny" number of such problems were intentional.

"No one at NSA thinks a mistake is OK," DeLong said several times in the call, which a spokesman said was conducted to "address inaccuracies."

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, who voted against the Amash amendment that would have ended some of the NSA's capabilities, said Sunday he doesn't have any second thoughts about his vote last month but added he has "serious concerns" about the NSA.

"The amendment I don't think did the trick, frankly. I think there are much more important things we need to be doing," he said on "State of the Union."

Van Hollen called for broader reforms to the Patriot Act and said a citizen's advocate was needed to take the adversarial position before the FISA court, rather than the NSA going before the court unilaterally.

"We should have somebody at the court whose jobs it is, whose responsibility is to make sure they're putting forth the counterargument," he told CNN's chief political correspondent Candy Crowley. "In the court of law, you have two parties. The court itself should make a decision between two arguments. Right now, the (FISA) court is only hearing one argument."

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has been a critic of the NSA programs since word of them was leaked in June, said he agrees there should be more oversight, but argued further that some of the NSA's operations are "fundamentally unconstitutional."

"The constitution doesn't allow for a single warrant to get a billion phone records. They have a warrant that says they want all of Verizon's phone calls," he said on "Fox News Sunday." "Also, I don't think it's good police work. I think we get overwhelmed with data."

Rep. Peter King, R-New York, a supporter of the programs, said he fully disagrees with Paul and other critics of the NSA. King, also speaking on Fox, said Paul's remarks were "a grab bag of misinformation and distortion."

"Take Rand Paul's own numbers. He said there are billions of phone calls being collected," King continued. "It's not really true, but assume he's right for once. Billions of phone calls being collected. You juxtapose that with 2,800 violations, which were self-reported by the NSA."

King added that 1,900 of those violations were on foreign phones and "no American's rights were violated because of that." The longtime congressman argued it's scandalous to say the government agency used the information "to hurt people."

"Whatever mistakes were made were inadvertent. 99.99% batting average, that's better than most media people do, most politicians do," he said, adding he has "tremendous respect" for the NSA's chief, Gen. Keith Alexander. "This whole tone of 'snooping' and 'spying' that we use, I think is horrible."

– CNN's Dan Merica and Ed Payne contributed to this report.


Filed under: Chris Van Hollen • NSA • Peter King • Rand Paul • State of the Union
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Thomas

    Its about time we new what the laws are .

    After 911 , it was act now and figure out the legalities later.

    August 18, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  2. Marie MD

    Something should be done as soon as everyone who has a Facebook account cancels it. You can't have it both ways if anyone and everyone knows what you do every second of the day, including your children'/ photos.
    If you are not a terrorist then why worry?

    August 18, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  3. Norma Vessels

    If you don't want your privacy invaded, then you need to drop your facebook, like Marie says, and stop using all telephones .. all e-mails .. don't write letters to Congressmen and women .. don't go anywhere, where they have you fill out forms, stating your name, age, address etc..Don't go to your doctor, your lawyer, your accountant .. don't fill out any forms for your Social Security or Medicare. In other words .. go live on a deserted island and hope you don't need any of these people.

    August 18, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  4. gezzerx

    Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.
    Thomas Jefferson

    August 18, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  5. Tigas

    You mean Obama lied to the US people about the spying capabilities of the NSA?!

    August 18, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  6. S. Anderson

    @Marie To paraphrase Ben Franklin, Those who who sacrifice privacy for little temporary security, deserve neither. Your line of thinking is what gave rise to the SS in East Germany. The danger is in the ever expanding definition of terrorist, which now includes "environmental extremists".

    August 18, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  7. Tom

    I'm pretty sure that if GWB were still president and this story came out that Marie would be the loudest screamer everyone about how te govt is spying on us. The liberals on here and their hipocrisy know no bounds.

    August 18, 2013 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  8. Marie MD

    @gezzerx, you mean the rethugs/teatrolls who don't understand they are trampling with our human and civil rights?
    @s wnderon, I rather have an " envionmental extremist" than a repug. At least they are trying to save the planet not destroy it and tke control of everyone.
    Franklin could have never conceived terrorists flying planes into buildings. Our forefathers didn't get everything right.

    August 18, 2013 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  9. Winston Smith

    Reining in the N.S.A., should have been a concern many years ago. The so called snooping on the American people has been going on before the start of W.W.2. Back then it was due to the axis powers, and the need to stop spying during the war. Today, we are all thought of as subjects needing to be under the microscope. The days of trust are long gone. But many of you have yourselves to blame. You look at any rule, as a rule to be broken. There are many that try to use and abuse any program put forth to help the masses. Many of you need keepers, because you give the impression they're needed.

    August 18, 2013 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  10. ge

    I have nothing to hide ,better to safe then sorry,only criminals have to fear the program

    August 18, 2013 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  11. regenesis0

    @S.Anderson
    And the expanding definition of "national security." I've been hearing things referred to as "threats to our economic security" recently, namely anything that threatens a big established company that gives lots of money to Washington, either as competition or simply something that offers embarrassment.

    August 18, 2013 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  12. necronn99

    So when do they prosecute Obama and his administration for their roll in it.

    August 19, 2013 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  13. Alan S.

    What people like Peter King fail to see is how easy it is to move down the slippery slop of violating consitutional laws (rights) once that process has started. They (Clapper) have not only directly lied to Congress but then as events become revealed has himself acknowledged the deseption that has been ongoining reguarding violations to American Citizens. Anything can be justified....just what price are you willing to pay.....the loss of privacy and freedom in exchange for the peace of mind of an outside possible threat? They made that choice in Germany and we saw where that led too!

    August 19, 2013 05:58 am at 5:58 am |