President Trump’s nominee to lead the National Security Agency promised members of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday that he won’t hide spying programs from them — as the agency has done in the past by failing to tell Congress about the mass surveillance of Americans.
Army Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone told the committee that he would inform the panel and follow the law before undertaking any new surveillance programs.
“I would consult with this committee and have that discussion, but at the end of the day I would say I would follow the law and I would ensure, if confirmed, that the agency follows the law,” Nakasone testified.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who pressed Nakasone on the issue, said Nakasone’s response was “encouraging — because that was not the case back in 2001.”
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America, then-president George W. Bush secretly directed the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the U.S. to search for evidence of terrorist activity without obtaining court-approved warrants. Before that, the NSA’s traditional mission was to spy on communications in foreign nations.
The NSA also used Section 215 of the Patriot Act anti-terrorism law to secretly collect metadata from the phone records of millions of Americans not suspected of any terrorist ties. That program, revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, led Congress to pass a law in 2015 halting the mass surveillance program.
Wyden asked Nakasone: “If there was a form of surveillance that currently requires approval by the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court and you were asked to avoid the court on some sort of secret legal analysis, what would you do?”
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