By Kyle Balluck - 01/19/14 02:18 PM EST
Mike Morell, former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, on Sunday admitted “a handful” of “very minor” abuse cases have occurred at the National Security Agency (NSA).
“But that's the limited abuse that has taken place,” he added. “There has been no systematic abuse, there has been no political abuse, it has been minor, very minor.”
Morell, who sat on the NSA review panel, also described reforms to U.S. surveillance programs proposed by President Obama on Friday as “significant.”
“He said was that there is a potential risk here to privacy and civil liberties that we need to take seriously,” Morell said. “And American history has plenty of examples of why we need to take it seriously.”
Morell said the government has proved that it is not capable of protecting classified information, an area in which some industries in the private sector excel.
“And I happen to know some industries in the private sector who do a phenomenal job of protecting their data, financial institutions, for example. And so, I think the government actually has some things it can learn from the private sector about how to protect data,” he said.
Obama has said that he doesn't want the government to compile phone metadata records because of the risk of abuse. But he also said that alternative proposals — having the data held by telephone companies or a third party — carried their own drawbacks and "pose difficult problems."