(WASHINGTON) — Following up on a promise he made earlier, the director of the National Security Agency told the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday that certain information about secret surveillance programs would be declassified in order to lift some of the veil of secrecy surrounding the government’s attempt to prevent terrorist attacks.
The NSA has come under heavy scrutiny lately after data was leaked by one of its contractors regarding programs to gather records about phone calls made in the U.S., as well as information on foreign suspects collected from major Internet companies.
While some regard the leaker, Edward Snowden, as a traitor, others contend he exposed an intelligence-gathering program run amok that violates Fourth Amendment rights to privacy and free speech.
Gen. Keith Alexander told reporters after his closed-door briefing with House lawmakers that while transparency is necessary to correct inaccuracies about the NSA programs, “We don’t want to risk American lives in doing that.”
Therefore, whatever Alexander allows to be declassified will be controlled so as not to compromise national security. Among other things, the NSA chief stressed the government is not listening into Americans’ phone calls, as has been alleged.
Republican Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, added, “The National Security Agency is not reading Americans’ email. They are not collecting Americans’ email by either of these programs. I’ve heard it repeated. I’ve heard it repeated by members of Congress and the Senate. I’ve heard it repeated in news outlets. That is absolutely incorrect.”
Rogers, who wants Snowden prosecuted, maintains the rogue NSA contractor did serious damage to national security by exposing the programs.
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