Republican worries NSA controversy will derail intel funding bill

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) is worried that controversy over National Security Agency surveillance could prevent Congress from re-authorizing funding for intelligence agencies. 

"Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's leaks have subjected the NSA's surveillance programs to unprecedented attack, raising the possibility that Congress will not be able to pass the 2014 Intelligence Authorization bill needed to provide congressional guidance on a host of crucial national-security issues," Pompeo wrote in a joint op-ed in The Wall Street Journal with David Rivkin, an attorney who worked in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. 

"It would be lamentable if the entirely legal and invaluable NSA surveillance program became more of a political football than it already is," they added.

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The Senate Intelligence Committee advanced the intelligence funding bill earlier this month, and the House has yet to move on companion legislation. 

Lawmakers including Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), the original author of the Patriot Act, are pushing legislation to rein in the NSA's spying powers. They want to end the NSA program that collects records on virtually all U.S. phone calls.

The program collects phone numbers, call times and call durations, but not the contents of communications. Critics of the program argue it is violating the privacy rights of millions of Americans not suspected of any wrongdoing.

But Pompeo and Rivkin argued that people have no constitutional privacy rights over their phone records. 

"Telephone metadata is generated by communications companies, and it belongs to them, not to their customers," they wrote.

They noted that NSA analysts are required to have "reasonable, articulable suspicion" that a phone number is linked to terrorism before searching their vast database of records. 

The Republicans also warned that it would be dangerous to limit the NSA's ability to spy on foreign leaders.

"Doing away with or weakening NSA surveillance programs would eliminate one of the country's few remaining effective and constitutional tools for keeping Americans safe," they wrote.