Franken pushes NSA leaders on secrecy

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., at a hearing in Minneapolis earlier this month (MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Al Franken criticized the leadership of the National Security Agency for releasing documents about the agency’s collection of Americans’ phone records shortly before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the subject began today.

“I don’t want a situation where the government is transparent only when it’s convenient for the government,” Franken said.

Franken, a Democrat who chairs the Privacy, Technology and the Law subcommittee, said there was “a lack of transparency” around the NSA’s activities regarding intelligence programs that have the potential to scoop up personal information relating to American citizens.

He emphasized that he supported the programs, which were disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and said he believed the programs had saved lives.

But Franken said the public needed more information about the NSA’s activities and said he planned to introduce legislation on Thursday to require the agency to release information about how often the agency looked at the phone records of American citizens.

Fellow Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar also sits on the Judiciary Committee and asked the NSA officials whether it was possible for the government to narrow the amount of data it collects.

John Inglis, the NSA’s deputy director, responded that the breadth of information gathered was a vital component of the government’s counter terrorism work.