The head of the NSA faced questions about the agency's surveillance program during congressional testimony Wednesday. He said the program has been 'critical' to national security.
The US government’s top-secret phone call-monitoring programs revealed in leaks to the media have helped to foil “dozens” of terrorist attacks on US soil, according to the head of the National Security Agency (NSA).
On Capitol Hill Wednesday for a previously scheduled hearing to discuss cyberoperations, Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of the NSA, argued to lawmakers that the secret surveillance program has been “critical” to national security.
That said, the clandestine agency is also endeavoring to be “transparent” with the American people, General Alexander assured lawmakers.
One closely-watched exchange came when Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont challenged Alexander about the provisions of the Patriot Act, as well as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which have allowed the NSA to collect information including phone and e-mail records of Americans.
“We’ve had a number of comments and proposals in the judiciary committee to improve these provisions, but the intelligence community has told us that really we obviously don’t have the ability as simple senators to know anything as well as you do, and so they do not need changes,” a skeptical Senator Leahy said. “I’m told they are critical to our counterterrorism efforts – Congress shouldn’t tinker with them at all.”
Leahy added, however, that now he wasn’t so sure that the “trust” lawmakers has placed in the NSA to date has been particularly “wise.”