Surveillance critics face Obama

Lawmakers say surveillance efforts are suffering from perception problems that have undercut trust among the American people.
Associated Press
Aug 2, 2013

Struggling to salvage a massive surveillance program, President Barack Obama faced congressional critics of the National Security Agency's collection of Americans' telephone records Thursday as snowballing concerns made new limitations on the intelligence effort appear increasingly likely.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden joined lawmakers on both sides of the issue for an Oval Office meeting designed to stem the bleeding of public support and show Obama was serious about engaging. Among the participants were the NSA's most vigorous congressional supporters — the top Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate intelligence panels — alongside its most stern critics, including Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado.

The lawmakers departed the rainy White House grounds without speaking to reporters. But in interviews later, they said there was a consensus that the surveillance efforts are suffering from perception problems that have undercut trust among the American people.

"There is openness to making changes," said Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, top Republican on the Senate's intelligence panel and a strong NSA defender, said Obama and the lawmakers didn't agree to take specific steps but brought up a number of proposals that will be fleshed out over the August congressional recess.

"A lot of ideas were thrown out," Chambliss told The Associated Press. "Nothing was concluded."

Wyden, in an interview, said he and Udall had sought to convince Obama of the urgency of addressing rising concerns. He said he proposed strengthening the government's ability to get emergency authorization to collect an individual's phone records, so that pre-emptive collection of everyone's records would no longer be necessary.

"I felt that the president was open to ideas — and we're going to make sure he has some," Wyden said after returning to Capitol Hill.

Wyden and two Senate colleagues also unveiled legislation Thursday to overhaul the secret federal court that oversees the programs, which critics decry as largely a rubber stamp. The senators aim to make the court created under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, more adversarial by creating a special advocate who could argue for privacy during closed-door proceedings and appeal decisions. A companion bill would diversify the court's bench by ending the chief justice's sole authority to pick its judges.

"These bills do not compromise national security, but they put a necessary opposing view in the FISA court and assure ideological diversity of judges," said Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. Another of the bill's sponsors, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the Obama administration was receptive to the ideas, although White House officials declined to comment.

Debate over the line between counterterrorism and invasion of privacy has been heating up since former government contract systems analyst Edward Snowden leaked classified documents exposing the NSA's monumental capability to sweep up data about phone and Internet use, including programs that store years of phone records on virtually every American. Snowden's revelations have prompted a national rethinking over government surveillance powers that have grown since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Russia decided on Thursday to grant temporary asylum to Snowden, who has been in a Moscow airport hotel for more than a month, despite America's insistence that the fugitive be sent home to face prosecution on espionage charges.

In Washington, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said he stressed to Obama the role Congress must play in ensuring that U.S. spying isn't infringing on Congress' intent or on civil liberties. He said his committee would further probe the issue, including in a classified hearing he's hoping to hold in September.

Extending its efforts to defend the programs to the public, the White House pledged to help Americans understand as much as possible about how they work, even as it staunchly defended their efficacy in keeping a post-9/11 America safe.

"That process will continue," said White House spokesman Jay Carney. "But I don't think that we can sensibly say that programs designed to protect us from terrorist attack are not necessary in this day and age."

The more information about the programs the government has released, the more it has fed even greater concerns about the scope of the surveillance and whether Obama's national security team has been truthful in describing it publicly in the past.

After the administration on Wednesday declassified more documents about an email mining program, Wyden said they showed the government had "repeatedly made inaccurate statements to Congress" about the effectiveness in countering terrorism. And new details released about the phone records program created new fodder for critics by confirming for the first time that, when investigating one suspected terrorist, the government can also examine records of people who called people who called the targeted individual — netting millions of people's records in a single request.

Meanwhile, the head of the NSA openly clashed with lawmakers including Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., over the agency's statements that telephone and email data collection helped foil 54 terror plots.

Rising tensions have stoked concern at the White House that surveillance programs Obama considers crucial will soon be undermined or even dismantled — despite the fact that many Democrats and Republicans in Congress have come to the NSA's defense.

Leahy, the Judiciary Committee chairman, has threatened to seek to end the phone records program if it's not proven effective. And Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., signaled Thursday that unless an agreement is reached on releasing more of the secret court's opinions, he would push Congress to use its "power of the purse" to compel their disclosure by withholding funding for certain programs.

Even some staunch advocates for a tough national security stance have become outspoken critics, including Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who helped write the USA Patriot Act but now says the phone records collection goes far beyond what he envisioned and may not be renewed. Sensenbrenner was among the lawmakers who shared concerns in the session Thursday with Obama and top officials, including Biden, National Security Advisory Susan Rice and White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler.

The White House also was spooked by a House vote last week to dismantle the program, which failed by a narrow 217-205 margin.




The picture is missing its caption..... "you said we wouldn't get caught!"


"Government Trust" . . . . isn't that an oxymoron?


Re: "There is openness to making changes,"

So you yahoos ADMIT that you've gone too far?

Start with telling the American people what REALLY happened in Benghazi and no more BS about some GD third rate video.

CNN has been doin' investigations:

"The Truth About Benghazi, Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET.":

Sadly, the Obama Admin. is starting to make the Nixon Admin. look like competent geniuses.


A couple more articles about Benghazi, one is a companion piece to the CNN show you linked to.

It took almost 2 years for the truth to come out about Watergate. It has been over 10 months, so far, on this. Drip... drip... drip...


Contango, what color is the sky in the world where you live? Obama has simply continued that which George Bush started. If you didn't have a problem with NSA surveillance prior to 2009, you shouldn't have a problem with it now. It's a direct result of Bush's signature piece of legislation, The Patriot Act.


Re: "what color is the sky in the world where you live?"

Blue, unlike your rose-colored one Comrade.

Take it up with CNN:

"Sources now tell CNN dozens of people working for the CIA were on the ground that night, and that the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remains a secret."

The Big Dog's back

Why do you worry about what happened in Benghazi?


Try to stay on topic Winnie.


i thought Obie said he was going to run a "transparent" gov't.


Sure , let's be so transparent that even our enemies know what's going on.




Douchey, my comment was regarding Benghazi. You know, the topic our gov't has stopped talking about.


They have stopped talking about it because it's a non-issue, just another make-believe scandal that the GOP tried to trump up, in their never-ending quest to get Obama out of office.


I am sure Ambassador Stevens family would disagree coaster.



"Douchey, my comment was regarding Benghazi."
..........How was I to tell, flathead?

""You know, the topic our gov't has stopped talking about.
...........The only ones who want to keep talking about it are the hypocritical Republicans , for example :

GOP Cut Funding For Embassy Security

You are following the GOP's strategy of : Don't govern, but focus on the would-be “scandals” .

You are a good numbskull Republican.


Re: "make-believe scandal"

How do you equate four Americans dying and the CIA covering up their involvement to a "make-believe scandal" Comrade?


You are following the GOP's strategy of : Don't govern, but focus on the would-be “scandals” , Mr. Limbaugh.


Re: "focus on the would-be 'scandals,'"

So CNN should drop the story because there's nothing to learn?


So maybe you should go and chase yourself , Mr. Limbaugh ?


Please Use YOUR brain, You are the enemy to this admin.

Peninsula Pundit

'The lawmakers departed the rainy White House grounds without speaking to reporters. But in interviews later, they said there was a consensus that the surveillance efforts are suffering from perception problems that have undercut trust among the American people.'
This statement, if true, shows that the congressmen do not comprehend what Freedom and Liberty in America consists of.
Nor do they exhibit any understanding of the idea that We, the People, do not like surveillance that is manifesting itself in 5 Federal police departments that are not required to let you know what they're doing, a Gulag on Rt. 53 where Ohio police can do things under the cover of Federal Secrecy,drones in the air watching us AND this massive,international phone-bugging operation.
Nor do the congressmen behave as though they understand they are supposed to be working for us, not working us over.
It Is Not what Life in America is supposed to be.
This has got to Stop.
Vote Them All Out!

The Big Dog's back

We should be watching right wingers.


We should be watching ALL politicians!

Oh, wait, you weren't talking about politicians, were you? You were talking about American citizens who've broken no laws and who are merely expressing an opinion with which you disagree. Gosh, does that mean I ought to request that YOU be watched extra carefully because I disagree with YOU? Or maybe that you ought to be muzzled, forcibly if need be, so that your opinions don't offend me or anybody else? tempting as it is, I guess I won't convert over to your position on "freedom" or "rights" any time soon after all!


Re: "We should be watching ALL politicians!"

“If tyranny and oppression come to this land it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”

― James Madison


(The White House also was spooked)

LMAO, it would be fun to play on this but I better leave well alone : )

Darwin's choice



Coffee. All over the keyboard. THANKS, 2cents!


2cents , Darwin's Reject , SamAdams
3 slope-headed racists.
( That was so funny that you spewed coffee? Prepubescent humor. )

Darwin's choice

Run along little boy....


Its not just phone records they are collecting. Its car data, keystroke data, emails, texts, voice messages, internet searches....basically everything you touch electronic wise, is being recorded by our government.

The Big Dogs Back