Senator Corker: Even Congress doesn't know extent of NSA spying
Bob Corker talking to Fox News Sunday:
"As the top Republican on Senate Foreign Relations, as you sit here today, do you feel that you actually know what the government is and isn't doing in surveilling Americans?" "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace asked the Tennessee Republican.
"No," Corker replied. " I don't think there are many people that work harder than I do. I'm not on the Intelligence Committee, and obviously they are privy to information that I am not, but absolutely not. And that's why I wrote a letter to the president this week to ask that the head of this organization come in and brief folks from top to bottom."
The director of the NSA should brief lawmakers on each program that's underway, how they are being used and what their intent is, Corker said. Then Congress can help determine what sort of oversight is necessary.
"Look, I appreciate efforts to keep Americans secure," Corker said. "At the same time, this is in front of us, we are not in front of it. ... The American people want to know that those of us who are elected, (Rep.) Eliot (Engel) and I know, understand fully what's happening here. I don't think we do. I would imagine there are even members of the Intelligence Committee themselves that don't fully understand the gamut of things that are taking place."
A veteran intelligence official with decades of experience at various agencies identified to me what he sees as the real problem with the current NSA: "It's increasingly become a culture of arrogance. They tell Congress what they want to tell them. Mike Rogers and Dianne Feinstein at the Intelligence Committees don't know what they don't know about the programs." He himself was asked to skew the data an intelligence agency submitted to Congress, in an effort to get a bigger piece of the intelligence budget. He refused and was promptly replaced in his job, presumably by someone who would do as told.
It should be clear to anyone by now that the NSA is an out of control agency that needs serious reform. And Congress, too, must change the way it oversees our intel agencies, demanding details of surveillance and other programs involving Americans.
Won't this raise the risk of leaks? Even if it did, it would be worth it. Risking a leak that might damage our ability to collect intelligence pales next to the risk to our liberties. That should be the deciding factor in any reforms that are proposed.