This week, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) held an open hearing featuring testimony from General Keith Alexander, the Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), as well as testimony from representatives from the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The open hearing, a rarity for the Intelligence Committee due to the sensitive nature of the topics they discuss, focused on the recent NSA leaks and helped to refute many of the false claims made by Edward Snowden. Congressman Westmoreland is a member of HPSCI and also serves as the Chairman for the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee.
"I'm so pleased that Chairman Rogers decided to hold this open hearing to allow those agencies involved in these two programs to explain more about the programs and to highlight some of their successes and address privacy concerns," stated Westmoreland. "Misleading and incomplete information was released leading to inaccurate conclusions about exactly what these programs do and why we need them. Today's hearing has brought further truth to light. First, and most importantly, these programs are successful and have saved countless American lives. Second, these programs are completely legal and operate under strict oversight by all three branches of the federal government. And third, these programs do not allow the NSA or any other government agency to "flip a switch' and listen to Americans' phone calls or read their e-mails. In fact, according to NSA Director General Alexander, that technology doesn't even exist."
During the hearing, Deputy Director of the FBI Sean Joyce informed the committee of at least four terrorist attacks thwarted by both the PRISM program and the phone metadata program, including a plot to bomb the New York subway system and a plot to blow up the New York Stock Exchange. NSA Director General Alexander once again assured the committee he was working to declassify as much information as he possibly could without harming our intelligence efforts any more than Snowden already has.
Congressman Westmoreland used the opportunity to question the panel about the leaker, Edward Snowden. Specifically, how he got access to this information and how he became familiar with these programs. In response, Robert Litt, General Counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, pointed out:
"I think part of the problem that we're having
is that he wasn't nearly as familiar with these programs as he's portrayed himself to be. And this is what happens when someone who sees a tiny corner of things thinks it gives him insight and visibility into the whole program."
-Robert Litt, General Counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence
The Intelligence Committee will continue to conduct very strict oversight of both the PRISM program and the phone metadata program. They will continue to monitor the success of both programs to ensure they remain a necessary and relevant tool fighting the war on terror.