Himes Continues to Press for Answers on NSA Data Collection

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U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat from the 4th District, says he sees no evidence that laws were broken in connection with the National Security Agency\’s data collection program.

The problem, Himes said, is that the laws \”have been way too broadly written and too broadly interpreted.\”

 In an email to supporters that was paid for by his reelection campaign committee, Himes was critical of the amount of misinformation about the government program and the partisan sniping it has unleashed.

And while the three-term Democrat rejects the \”comfortable meme that we need to have a \’national conversation\’\’\’ on the matter, Himes pledged to continuing pressing for answers on how much these program have contributed to national security.

\”[W]e need to draw some bright lines around where and when government can encroach on ancient civil liberties,\’\’ he wrote. \”The latest revelations come on the heels of the Department of Justice’s aggressive treatment of the Associated Press, which I suspect is already having an effect on the media’s willingness to report the foibles and overreaches of the government. It’s a cliché to say so, but keep going down this path, and the terrorists do win by causing us to twist our own free country into something none of us would recognize or embrace.\”

Watch Himes grill NSA Director Keith Alexander at a congressional hearing Tuesday and read his full email after the jump:

 

Dear Friends,

One of the several troubling aspects of the recent disclosures of the NSA program to collect comprehensive telephone data on Americans is the flipping of much of the American public. Polling shows that many of those who were upset over the Bush administration’s encroachment on civil liberties are much less concerned when the Obama administration does it. And many of those who defended Bush, Cheney, et al, are now screaming from the rooftops at this administration\’s activities.

I’d like to think that questions that go to the very constitutional core of the relationship between government and citizen might not be subject to such partisan shading. Alas, they are, which is a shame, because this is a moment for clear-eyed reflection.

First, we owe it to ourselves and the country to really understand what has been disclosed. Having spent hours in closed hearings, I’m stunned by the amount of misinformation out there, even in reputable news outlets. This is not surprising given the fact that the American public was unaware of these programs until they were disclosed by Mr. Snowden. But there seems to be a cottage industry developing that exaggerates the extent of these programs.

I have seen no evidence that laws have been broken, but rather that laws have been way too broadly written and too broadly interpreted. If you want to really understand this, read the Supreme Court decision in Maryland v. Smith and then Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. You will then understand why I voted against the PATRIOT Act’s re-authorization.

Second, I object to the comfortable meme that we need to have a “national conversation” about this stuff. That’s true, but more importantly, we need to draw some bright lines around where and when government can encroach on ancient civil liberties. The latest revelations come on the heels of the Department of Justice’s aggressive treatment of the Associated Press, which I suspect is already having an effect on the media’s willingness to report the foibles and overreaches of the government. It’s a cliché to say so, but keep going down this path, and the terrorists do win by causing us to twist our own free country into something none of us would recognize or embrace.

In the coming weeks, I will work hard to understand how much these programs have truly contributed to national security, and whether there are other, less intrusive, options. Protecting Americans from terrorism is essential, but so is protecting the liberties that define them.

Please let me know what you think.

Sincerely,
Jim

 

 

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