Rogers: Obama adding ‘a new level of uncertainty’ to intelligence gathering

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A top House Republican said Sunday that President Obama’s proposal to examine the nation’s intelligence gathering techniques is already creating uncertainty that could hamper efforts to root our terror threats.

{mosads}On CNN’s “State of the Union,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (Mich.) expressed concern that the president’s plan to weigh privacy issues and the government’s role in collecting telephone metadata has “interjected a level of uncertainty and is having a whole bunch of us scratch our heads.”

On Friday, Obama unveiled a plan that calls on his administration and top intelligence officials to review over the next 70 days the best way to protect sensitive personal information while making their work more transparent.

Part of that examination includes reviewing possibilities for ending the bulk collection of records on U.S. phone calls and providing some additional protections to foreigners.

The president wants a report by March 28, when the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is required to reauthorize the program.

While Rogers said he was glad to see that the president was clear about the legitimacy of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) data collecting program, he argued that the process of review could hinder intelligence efforts and risk the nation’s security efforts.

“It took a long time for him [Obama] to come out publicly and say the program is legal and good for national security,” Rogers said.

Rogers said the president’s proposals represent big changes that could jeopardize efforts to keep the nation safe from attack.

He said that parts of the president’s proposal are “unworkable” and questioned the president’s call to look at whether the government or private sector should handle the bulk of the intelligence gathering.

The program has stopped hundreds of thousands of wasted FBI man hours chasing leads down rabbit holes, he said.

He argued that the program fills the gap “that we know we missed on the 9-11 attacks” and allows intelligence officials to dig more deeply into the details of communications.

“I just think we don’t want to go to pre-9-11 because we haven’t had an attack,” he said.

“I’d argue because we have all of the tools on the table to protect Americans and you can do it while protecting privacy and civil liberties.”

Rogers argues that the program has been heavily tracked and has oversight from the courts, Congress and the Justice Department and that it is more closely monitored than most other government programs to ensure there are no abuses.

He said that Edward Snowden didn’t understand was all the levels of oversight.

“We want our spy agencies spying on foreigners, that’s why we have them,” he said.

“And it’s important that they do that in a way that is helpful to the United States. That doesn’t mean grabbing everything it means grabbing what’s important.”

He countered the conclusions of a recent report showing that the intelligence-gathering program had provided no evidence that a terrorist has been rooted out despite the broad collection of data.

“It’s hard to come to the conclusion that it’s had no impact,” he said.

Rogers said that if the small group of intelligence officials who have access to the data need a warrant to access it, that would hinder their ability to track down terrorists.

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) told CNN that he wants the program out of the government’s hands.

“I want this data out of the hands of the U.S. government. That bothers me,” he said.

“I don’t like relying on the good faith and good nature of the people in charge.”

King argued that everyone is struggling with “calibrating is risk vs. privacy.”

“There are terrorists threats. People do want to kill us so we’re trying to find the right balance, which I think has to be calibrated all the time based upon the level of risk.”

Tags Angus King Mike Rogers National Security Agency NSA

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