GOP lawmakers demand classified meeting with leaders on NSA

Rank-and-file House Republicans are demanding a classified executive session with their leaders to flush out details of the National Security Agency (NSA) leak probe. [WATCH VIDEO]

GOP lawmakers who did not know about the NSA data mining of U.S. phone records asked for the internal meeting Wednesday during the first Republican conference meeting since the programs were leaked.

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They said the meeting would allow members to express different views about a program that has divided both parties and the public at large.

Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), a conservative who asked for the meeting, said an “honest debate” was necessary.

“Some of us suggested that we need to go into a closed, classified hearing or a discussion so we can actually have an honest debate about what's happening because we don't know all the issues. We don't have all the answers. Only the Intelligence Committee seems to understand this program, and some of us would like to understand more,” Labrador told The Hill.

He said he also wanted the discussion to help Republicans figure out a way forward in balancing security with privacy.

“I hate it when we ask a question and hear, 'Well, that's classified.’ I want to make sure that we can ask all the questions that we want,” Labrador said.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republican leaders have offered a defense of the two NSA programs, arguing they were legal and that Congress had oversight on them.

President Obama has also offered a defense while welcoming a debate over the data-mining operations.

In Wednesday’s closed-door meeting with Republicans, Boehner reiterated those comments, while also taking to task the 29-year-old contractor who leaked the programs to news organizations.

After the meeting, Boehner told reporters it would be up to congressional committees to provide oversight on the programs and the hiring of government contractors who work in highly classified settings.

He said he was not sure the outsourcing of intelligence work to contractors was to blame for the leaks, but promised Congress would look at the issue.