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Gowdy doubts lawmakers were briefed on years of NSA privacy breaches

Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyOvernight Energy: Dems ask Pruitt to justify first-class travel | Obama EPA chief says reg rollback won't stand | Ex-adviser expects Trump to eventually rejoin Paris accord Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand GOP lawmakers: Obama admin ‘hastily’ wrote lead ammunition ban MORE (R-S.C.) said late Friday that he doubts that members of Congress were briefed on the thousands of privacy violations committed by the National Security Agency, which were revealed earlier this week.

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An internal NSA audit and other documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that the agency had broken its own privacy rules and violated privacy rights of citizens thousands of times since 2008, according to The Washington Post.

“I wonder how many of my colleagues in Congress were briefed that there were thousands of errors made with respect to this program because I have a sneaking suspicion the number is zero,” said Gowdy on Fox News.

“That's how many of my colleagues were told ahead of time before we had to learn from a leaker to a newspaper that there were thousands of violations.”

Many members of Congress, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinLawmakers feel pressure on guns Feinstein: Trump must urge GOP to pass bump stock ban Florida lawmakers reject motion to consider bill that would ban assault rifles MORE (D-Calif.), who is charged with overseeing the NSA, have said they were not made aware of the audit until recently.

And Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyGrassley, Dems step up battle over judicial nominees Popular bill to fight drug prices left out of budget deal Judiciary Dems want public hearings with Kushner, Trump Jr. MORE (D-Vt.) has called for a hearing on the matter when Congress returns next month.

Gowdy said he’s been hearing a great roar of dissatisfaction and distrust from voters in his South Carolina district, and that Congress needs to take serious steps to fix its oversight capabilities of highly secretive intelligence operations, like those carried out by the NSA.

“If we don't get that figured out, I'm not worried about winning elections, I'm worried about the republic,” said Gowdy. “People who are governed have consented to be governed [and] have to have trust in the people we have put in positions of responsibility.”

The NSA audit found that the spy agency had procured private communications thousands of times without proper authorization. Most of the incidents were unintended and involved unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign targets in the United States, according to the Post report.

Gowdy pointed to the need to balance privacy with security, saying that in order to try and prevent attacks like those on Sept. 11, 2001, the government has made great strides towards being more secure. But, in doing so, he said he worries that civil liberties may have been sacrificed.

“I think there's a growing mood in Congress on both sides of the aisle that we have over-skewed it towards public safety and away from privacy. And that is very difficult for a former prosecutor to say, but I believe it,” he said.