Weeks after National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden said the mass electronic spying by the NSA was illegal, several members of Congress are now saying the exact same thing.
Republicans and Democrats of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee slammed the Department of Justice and the NSA during a hearing today.
According to PCWorld.com, the lawmakers said the mass collection of U.S. phone calls by the NSA violated the Patriot Act that limits surveillance to anti-terrorism activities.
“We never, at any point in this debate, have approved the type of unchecked, sweeping surveillance of United States citizens employed by our government,” said Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich). “If the government cannot provide a clear, public explanation for how its program is consistent with the statute, it must stop collecting this information immediately.”
Even Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc), who authored of the Patriot Act, sounded like a left wing progressive.
“Unless you realize you’ve got a problem, that [provision] is not going to be renewed,” said Rep. Sensenbrenner. “There are not the votes in the House of Representatives ... and then you’re going to lose the business-record access provision of the Patriot Act entirely. It’s got to be changed, and you have to change how you operate .... otherwise in a year-and-a-half, you’re not going to have it anymore.”
James Cole, Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice, tried to defend the mass spying.
“If you’re looking for the needle in the haystack, you have to have the entire haystack to look through, but we’re not allowed to look through that haystack willy-nilly,” said Cole.
Cole falsely claimed that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and Congress both have significant oversight of the NSA surveillance programs.
However, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Sen. Ron Wyden on March 12 when Sen. Wyden asked him if the NSA “collected data on millions of Americans."
“No, sir, not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly,” said Clapper.
Clapper later told NBC News that he gave the “least untruthful answer possible” at the hearing and the question was like being asked “when he was going to stop beating his wife.”
According to RT.com, Clapper changed his story again in a June 21 letter that he sent to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Clapper claimed that his “response was clearly erroneous, for which I apologize" and added that he misunderstood the question.