Congressman Peter King offered an unapologetic defense Sunday of the National Security Agency's broad collection of phone records, saying the spying agency has not abused its power and that 2001 terrorist attacks might have been prevented if the tool had been in place then.
"I live in New York," the Republican told NBC's "Meet the Press." "I lost some 150 friends, neighbors and constituents on Sept. 11. If the NSA had had this metadata in 2001, that attack probably would not have happened."
A panel convened by President Obama recently made 46 recommendations that would reform or scale back NSA's bulk collection of phone records and other data — programs that were shrouded in secretary before former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked details about them to the press.
Mr. King said Mr. Snowden is a "defector and a traitor" and that the NSA is already monitored closely.
"What should we rein in? There has not been one abuse cited," Mr. King said.
But Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the nation's Founding Fathers "would be astounded to see what NSA and others are doing."
He said the country needs a spy agency that is accountable to the American public.
"You know, it's not Snowden," Mr. Leahy told NBC. "In a way, he's irrelevant on this. It's a question of how well this has been looked at and how much the American public knows about it."
He also said the NSA hasn't inspired much confidence in part because Mr. Snowden was able to flee the country with a trove of classified material.
"They did such a poor job at NSA that a subcontractor was able to steal all those secrets, and today, after spending millions of dollars, they still don't know what was stolen," he said.
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