Spy panel chairman confident NSA programs won’t die

There are still “hurdles” in Congress’s path, but lawmakers should be able to come together and hammer out a bill to reauthorize a core National Security Agency program early next year, the outgoing head of the House Intelligence Committee predicted.

Rep. Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersHillicon Valley: FBI to now notify state officials of cyber breaches | Pelosi rips 'shameful' Facebook | 5G group beefs up lobby team | Spotify unveils playlists for pets 5G group beefs up lobby team House Homeland Security rip DHS's 'unacceptable' failure to comply with subpoena MORE (R-Mich.), who is retiring from Congress after more than a decade, told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor on Friday that “adults” would ensure that the bill goes through, despite opposition from the spy agency’s critics.

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“I think there are still some hurdles that remain,” Rogers said.

However, “the adults in the room will understand that we have to have these provisions and push back on what I believe is the wrong narrative of what is actually happening," he added, alluding to fears about the agency's ability to invade people's privacy. 

On June 1, the legal authority allowing the NSA to collect and search Americans’ phone calls is set to expire.

Last month’s Senate filibuster of a major NSA reform bill — which would have renewed portions of the law while also forcing the spy agency to go to phone companies before getting people's calling records — is likely to set up a heated battle over the bill in the early months of 2015. The issue has split both parties in Congress, and some lawmakers have threatened to vote against any reauthorization that does not include major changes to the controversial NSA program.

Losing the authority entirely would be disastrous for U.S. national security, spy officials have claimed.

Given the thousands of Americans and Europeans who have joined the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and might make want to make connections back home, the ability to monitor their communications is more important than ever, Rogers said.

“Those people are going to come home and you’re going to have known, identified terrorists calling somebody in the United States saying: ‘Hey, the operation’s a go; go at it,’ ” he said.

“If we don’t have the ability to figure that out, we are going to have some problems here at home.”