The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

June 12, 2013

Senator blasts NSA chief over answers

Others in Congress call Edward Snowden a traitor

WASHINGTON — One of the staunchest critics of government surveillance programs said Tuesday that the national intelligence director did not give him a straight answer last March when he asked whether the National Security Agency collects any data on millions of Americans.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called for hearings to discuss two recently revealed NSA programs that collect billions of telephone numbers and Internet usage daily. He was also among a group of senators who introduced legislation Tuesday to force the government to declassify opinions of a secret court that authorizes the surveillance.

But other key members of Congress, including House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Dianne Feinstein, say the programs were valuable tools in counterterror and that the former NSA contractor who leaked them is a traitor. President Barack Obama has vigorously defended the program, saying Americans must balance privacy and security to protect the country from terrorists.

Wyden, however, complained that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, during a Senate Intelligence hearing in March about threats the U.S. faces from around the world, was less than forthcoming.

“The American people have the right to expect straight answers from the intelligence leadership to the questions asked by their representatives,” Wyden said in a statement.

Wyden said he wanted to know the scope of the top secret surveillance programs, and privately asked NSA Director Keith Alexander for clarity. When he did not get a satisfactory answer, Wyden said he alerted Clapper’s office a day early that he would ask the same question at the public hearing.

“Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Wyden asked Clapper at the March 12 hearing.

“No, sir,” Clapper answered.  

“It does not?” Wyden pressed.

Clapper quickly and haltingly softened his answer. “Not wittingly,” he said. “There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect — but not wittingly.”

Wyden said he also gave Clapper a chance to amend his answer.

A spokesman for Clapper did not have an immediate response on Tuesday, but the intelligence director told NBC that he believed  Wyden’s question was “not answerable necessarily, by a simple yes or no.” Officials generally do not discuss classified information in public hearings, reserving discussion on top-secret programs for closed sessions where they will not be revealed to adversaries.

“So I responded in what I thought was the most truthful or least most untruthful manner, by saying, ‘No,”’ Clapper said.

The programs that do sweep up such information were revealed last week by The Guardian and The Washington Post newspapers, and Clapper has since taken the unusual step of declassifying some of the previously top-secret details to help the administration mount a public defense of the surveillance as a necessary step to protect Americans.

One of the NSA programs gathers hundreds of millions of U.S. phone records to search for possible links to known terrorist targets abroad. The other allows the government to tap into nine U.S. Internet companies and gather all communications to detect suspicious behavior that begins overseas.

A new poll by the Post and the Pew Research Center found Americans generally prioritize the government’s need to investigate terrorist threats over the need to protect personal privacy, and most (56 percent) considered the NSA’s collection of Americans’ telephone call records an acceptable way for the government to investigate terrorism. Americans were more closely divided on whether the government should be able to monitor email and other online activities to prevent future terrorist attacks, with 52 percent opposed to that.

The poll was conducted June 6-9, as many details of the NSA’s data collection efforts were still being revealed.

A senior U.S. intelligence official on Monday said there were no plans to scrap the programs. Despite backlash from overseas allies and American privacy advocates, the programs continue to receive widespread, if cautious, support within Congress as an indispensable tool for protecting Americans from terrorists. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive security issue.

Wyden said lawmakers must have clear and direct answers to questions in order to conduct oversight. “This job cannot be done responsibly if senators aren’t getting straight answers to direct questions,” he said in the statement.

Text Only
World, nation, state
  • Potential for heart attack, stroke risk seen with marijuana use

    Over a five-year period, a government-mandated tracking system in France showed that physicians in that country treated 1,979 patients for serious health problems associated with the use of marijuana, and nearly 2 percent of those encounters were with patients suffering from cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, cardiac arrhythmia and stroke, and circulation problems in the arms and legs. In roughly a quarter of those cases, the study found, the patient died.

    April 24, 2014

  • Cleveland women held captive seek Joan Rivers’ apology

    Attorneys for two women held in a Cleveland home and abused for a decade say Joan Rivers should apologize for comparing living in her daughter’s guest room with the captivity they experienced.

    April 24, 2014

  • Fracking foes challenge earthquake assurances

    A citizens group said Wednesday it isn’t taking the word of state regulators that new permitting guidelines will protect public health after earthquakes in northeast Ohio were linked to the gas drilling method of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
     

    April 24, 2014

  • U.S. weighs clemency for inmates jailed 10 years

    The Obama administration is encouraging many nonviolent federal prisoners to apply for early release — and expecting thousands to take up the offer. It’s an effort to deal with high costs and overcrowding in prisons, and also a matter of fairness, the government says.
     

    April 24, 2014

  • Lower-income teens don’t get enough sleep

    African-American high school students and boys in low- to middle-income families reported short, fragmented sleep, and that could play a role in their health risks, researchers reported Monday.
     

    April 23, 2014

  • Health agencies try to counter mumps outbreak

    Health agencies trying to stem a large and growing mumps outbreak are advising college, school and even day care leaders to make sure central Ohio students are immunized and to separate them from those who haven’t been vaccinated and those who are infected.
     

    April 23, 2014

  • An ocean of broken hearts

    Lee Byung-soo says he knew, when he saw his 15-year-old son’s body in the tent. It could not have been more horrifically obvious. But he wanted so much for him to be alive.

    April 22, 2014

  • Biden conferring with Ukranian leader over what to do
    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Kiev on Monday for talks with Ukraine’s embattled interim leaders as Russia’s top diplomat blamed Washington for instigating the crisis that threatens to escalate into armed conflict between the two former Soviet republics.
     

    April 22, 2014

  • Panel’s role in Cleveland police ruling questioned

    A lawyer for families of men killed in separate 2012 shootings by Cleveland police — including a 137-bullet chase under federal investigation — is questioning a grand jury’s role in a recent county prosecutor’s ruling.

    April 21, 2014

  • Gender gap under Ohio governor nearly $10 an hour

    A newspaper investigation has found the average pay gap between men and women in the offices of four of Ohio’s five elected statewide officials has grown to as much as almost $10 an hour, as it’s shrunk to under a dollar across the rest of state government.

    April 21, 2014

House Ads
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
AP Video