Cardin: Debate possible on privacy, top-secret programs

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A key Democratic senator said Wednesday the collection of phone records and other mass data is “well understood,” but there is room to discuss the broader implications of the spying programs.

“We want to make sure we have the right balance between keeping Americans safe and their privacy rights, so how that information is used is really the question,” Sen. Ben Cardin, Maryland Democrat, said on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown.”

Mr. Cardin made his comments after Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, expressed his displeasure Tuesday with National Intelligence Director James Clapper’s assertion in March that the government does not “wittingly” collect data on Americans’ phone calls.

Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old analyst with access to top-secret information, shocked Washington by disclosing that the National Security Agency programs that keep phone call logs and collect Internet data from foreigners through a hyper-secret program known as Prism.

Mr. Cardin said federal lawmakers can debate the best way to preserve personal liberty in an “open forum.”

“But talking about specific information, and how that specific information was utilized — in other words, connecting the dots — is something that we will probably need to keep classified,” the senator said.

Mr. Cardin also told the program he supports New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand’s push to let military prosecutors, instead of commanders, decide which sexual assault cases to try in light of reports that sex-related complaints in the military have been mishandled.

The proposal suffered a setback this week, when Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, decided to remove the measure from a defense spending bill up for debate.

“We know that we have a problem within our military, and I think Senator Gillibrand’s proposal — removing it from the chain of command — would be a positive step,” Mr. Cardin told MSNBC.

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