House Intel chairman: NSA phone monitoring thwarted terror attack

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday defended a massive National Security Agency (NSA) phone-monitoring program, saying that it had prevented at least one terrorist attack.


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“Within the last few years, this program was used to stop a terrorist attack in the United States,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said during a press conference. “We know that. It’s important. It fills in a little seam that we have, and it’s used to make sure that there is not an international nexus to any terrorism event that they may believe is ongoing in the United States.”

The Guardian on Wednesday revealed a secret court order that requires Verizon to give the NSA the phone records of all of its customers — not just those under suspicion of wrongdoing.

The order covers phone numbers, the time and duration of the calls and other identifying information. It does not cover the contents of conversations or text messages.

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Rogers said that Congress has been kept up to date on the surveillance, and that a judge must reauthorize the program every 90 days.

"It is legal," Rogers said. "It's been authorized by Congress and it has, again, judicial oversight and review."

Later on Thursday, Rogers and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, issued a joint statement endorsing the program.

“The collection described with yesterday’s disclosure of a purported court order is consistent with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as passed by Congress, executed by the Executive Branch, and approved by a Federal Court," the lawmakers said.

They reiterated that the program "led to the successful detection and disruption of at least one terrorist plot on American soil, possibly saving American lives."

"Understanding the necessity of the public’s trust in our intelligence activities, and out of an abundance of caution, the Committee will review this matter to ensure that it too complies with the laws established to protect the American people,” they said.