Delegation sees need for congressional debate on Obama’s NSA policies

WASHINGTON – President Obama’s speech on Friday outlining new limits on intelligence gathering activities by the National Security Agency has members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation agreeing with him that more congressional debate of data collection practices is needed.  But there’s little consensus on what future policies should look like.

“Today’s proposed reforms are a start but they are not enough,” said DFL U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum in a statement.

McCollum suggested that as a member of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, which oversees the NSA and other intelligence agencies, she would be using Congress’s power of the purse to aggressively review future data collection operations.

” Congress must demand greater oversight of the NSA’s actions and accountability for the billions of taxpayer dollars being spent,” said McCollum, typically a reliable ally of the president’s in Congress.

Another Obama ally, DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken was also unconvinced by the speech.

“I do not believe his recommendations will do enough to improve transparency,” said Franken, who chairs a subcommittee tasked with electronic privacy issues.

Franken pushed for legislation he introduced that would allow companies to make public the number of requests for information they receive from intelligence service. Currently, those requests must be kept secret.

Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, the only member of the delegation who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, has long backed the powers given to the intelligence community.

“I am glad that President Obama acknowledged that the NSA has followed the law, and that they have not intentionally abused the authorities given to them by Congress,” said Bachmann, who rarely agrees with Obama on any issue.

But she described one of Obama’s reforms, the creation of an advocate for the public to sit before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act courts, as “giving an extra level of protection to suspected terrorists that goes above and beyond the rights of the American people.”