- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 12, 2013

Take away the National Security Agency’s ability to tap into telephone records, and the nation is left unsecure — that’s the claim of the head of the NSA, Gen. Keith Alexander, to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“There is no other way that we know of to connect the dots,” he said, during a hearing about the growing security threats America faces, particularly from Iraq and Syria, The Daily Mail reported. “Taking these programs off the table is absolutely not the thing to do.”

He was referring specifically to the NSA’s collection of billions of telephone calls — revelations that were recently revealed by leaked documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The fact that the federal government may have accumulated data on millions of Americans’ telephone records has outraged privacy and civil rights groups, and angered many in Congress.

During the hearing, committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy called the idea of the NSA sweeping up millions — or billions — of U.S. citizens’ phone records troubling, at best, The Daily Mail reported. And he’s brought forth legislation that would ban the NSA from collecting the majority of what it does now — a measure aimed at keeping Americans’ phone records safe from federal eyes.

The NSA, for its part, defends its phone data surveillance and insists its targets are overseas individuals — in accordance with law — and that the tapping of Americans’ records is not its aim.

Mr. Leahy’s proposal has the support of both Democrats and Republicans. But those in the intelligence community are fighting for a softer regulation — one that allows the data surveillance to continue, but puts more oversight on the NSA.

 

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