NEW YORK (PIX11) – The NSA remains on the defensive – forced to explain why the data mining and electronic surveillance programs revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden are necessary.
NSA Director General Keith Alexander testified Tuesday, “In recent years the info gathered from these programs provided government with critical leads to prevent over 50 potential terrorist events.”
In other words, the end — that is successfully fighting terror — has repeated justified the means, which, in those cases, meant intercepting phone calls placed abroad.
Terror expert Micah Halpern says the NSA had no choice but to toot its own horn
Halpern told PIX11, “It really is important that people monitor the bad guys. Not only do the programs work, the programs are essential.”
President Obama – in a PBS interview — insists the NSA’s shockingly intrusive technology does not compromise the privacy of Americans at home.
“If you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannon listen to your telephone calls, and the NSA cannot target your emails,” said the president.
It doesn’t appear the NSA can be turned down either, when it comes to applying for a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA.
The Justice Department said in its annual report to Congress it submitted almost 1,800 applications to conduct electronic surveillance.
The court approved every one of them.
“I believe we have achieved this security and relative safety in a way that does not compromise the privacy and civil liberties of our citizens,” Gen. Alexander said.
We asked PIX11’s Lionel – a former defense attorney and prosecutor – to weigh in on the power of the secret court.
“We (are) still feeling the sting of 9/11, and understandably so. I was here – we were all here (they) will go to no ends to provide all the tools in the quiver of the law enforcement agencies to prevent the next horror. But in the meantime, this isn’t throwing out the baby with the bath water. This is a level of surveillance never seen before (or) even contemplated,” Lionel said.