House Committee Hearing on the NSA leaves additional questions unanswered...

This morning, NSA director Keith Alexander and other intelligence officials testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The Committee chairman, Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, convened the hearing to defend the NSA's internet and phone surveillance programs. Today's hearing, called “How Disclosed NSA Programs Protect Americans, and Why Disclosure Aids Our Adversaries,” was meant to provide a public forum for Director Alexander to make the case that government spying has kept Americans safe.

Alexander began the hearing with an opening statement, saying, “I would much rather be here today debating this point than trying to explain how we failed to prevent another 9/11.” He refused to provide details, but said that the surveillance program has prevented 50 potential terrorist attacks since 2001. NSA deputy director, John Chris Inglis, also testified, and described how the agency handles phone communications in the U.S. He said the standard for looking into U.S. based phone calls requires a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” of terrorist activity, and that only 20 analysts within the NSA have the power to target US-based phone calls. According to Inglis, analysts must get supervisor approval on any domestic targeting. However, throughout the hearing, intelligence officials stated numerous times that U.S. citizens are not being targeted.

Director Alexander repeated this assurance, saying, “the NSA may not target the phone calls or emails of any US person, anywhere in the world,” without a court order. It appears today's hearing was meant to defend government surveillance programs, and assure Americans that our phone and email privacy remains intact. It's not clear yet whether today's hearing achieved the intended result. The debate about government surveillance continues. Stay tuned.


ckrob's picture
ckrob 11 years 5 days ago

Did the wiretap info on the associated press reporters come thru PRISM?

SUITERF's picture
SUITERF 11 years 5 days ago

Note: They were only testifying about the two publicly known programs. They are bound by law not to disclose any other secret programs. If those programs involve listening to our phone calls, they are prohibited from revealing it to the American people. In other words, there assurances are worthless.

Kend's picture
Kend 11 years 5 days ago

Sorry but I have to finish from yesterday.

DAnne M, I can open a bank account, get a drivers license, etc buy showing my Canadian passport in the US. How do you think people who are transfered there live there daily life. Thats why I don't understand how a person should be able to vote with a drivers license. It seems I am missing something.

howardb4 11 years 5 days ago

Question. Does what the NSA did and are doing break any LAWS? I can't seem to find any definitive answer to that question. Their history, along with the rest of the federal government's history is one of secrecy, deception, fabrication, falsification and murder. That along with all the constitutional violations that have been committed by them in the past ten years or so, makes them criminals of the highest order. How anyone, who is able to form even the most elementary of thoughts, can believe anything they utter is mind boggling.

The sad fact is, that many millions of Americans will believe almost any lie their elected representatives and appointed agencies put in front of them. That is where the problem really is. An electorate that has allowed themselves for so many decades to be manipulated, that they know no other way.

This is a sad and quite wretched country.

historywriter's picture
historywriter 11 years 5 days ago

Why would anyone believe anything any government employee says on this--including Obama?

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 11 years 5 days ago

This hearing is BS. It doesn't matter whether or not Americans communications are targeted or read. What matters is that they have been confiscated without probable cause or warrants. The fourth amendment states:

The Constitution of The United States:
Quote Amendment 4:The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.[1]

Blanket seizure of all communications is by definition "unreasonable searches and seizures." No Warrants, no "probable cause," no support by Oath or affirmation, and no description of the place, person or thing to be seized. Just blanket seizure and a lot of BS. This hearing is a sham.

Why don't they publish these 50 potential terrorist attacks with itemized explanations as to how this information could never have been achieved constitutionally. Security? BS!! They lie from their very first statement which implied that 911 happened because of insufficient security. We all know that Bush, Cheney, and Rice had warning given to them well in advance and did nothing to stop the 911 attack. I haven't heard such pure BS since the Warren Commision. Give me a break!

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 11 years 5 days ago

howardb4 ~ You took the words right out of my mouth. Thank you!

crint's picture
crint 11 years 5 days ago

How the hell, with only 300 intercepts, did they stop 50 attacks? 300, reaaaaaaaaaaaaaally?

A $3+ billion building in Utah and only 300 intercepts? What is that, $10,000,000 per? I smell a rat!!!

NSA = New Stasi of America!!!

j.jonik 11 years 5 days ago

Virtually every municipality in the USA encourages Snitching on, friends or neighbors... who are suspects or perpetrators in some crimes or other...tire slashing, selling pot, or whatnot.

But, those same officials will drop an Alp on your house if you dare snitch on corporate or government crimes, lies, or misdeeds.

Some snitching good, some bad.

akunard's picture
akunard 11 years 5 days ago

As I said before, Boston proves they aren't targeting the right people!

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 11 years 5 days ago

Kend ~ Bless your little heart. I'm going to try to explain this to you one last time. The drivers license or state ID is not necessary to prevent voter fraud. To vote you have to register. That is why you usually register at the same time you apply for a drivers license. Much of the same documentation is needed for both actions. That means you have to provide under penalty of perjury all the pertinent information the government needs to determine you are a legal citizen, have the proper legal status, and to verify your identity. (Felons, who may be legal citizens, cannot vote either.) They record your name, SSN (Social Security Number), your address, phone number, and status for voting. Then they assign you a precinct and location to go to vote. If you prefer, you can request an absentee ballot that is sent to your home address with your name on it. You vote at home, sign and seal the ballot, and send it back. If you go to the polls your name is on a list. They ask you your name and then cross it off the list when you enter the ballot box. You vote, sign the ballot, and slide it into a slotted black box that is latter counted.

Republicans want to enforce a policy where people having to show an ID when they appear at the voting site simply to block the ability of many registered voters from voting. You don't need an ID for absentee voting; and should never need your ID for anything other than registering to vote. Anything else is election fraud and voter suppression.

As far as illegals are concerned, Kend, please. You have a passport and they don't. If you can't understand the difference of that argument I can't help you.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 11 years 5 days ago

Terror is a 2.5 mile wide tornado! Why not spend money on real national security, the kind of security that comes from funding renewable energy projects? It's really about money anyway, always is, so why not spend it wisely?

Get rid of all the privatized national security firms and redirect this funding to a real national security grid with an emphasis on wind and solar.

Tap maple trees, not phone lines!...... oh well, I tried!

RaleighMom's picture
RaleighMom 11 years 5 days ago

Ok, so on the radio program today you pointed out that while the NSA does not have access to the contents of our telephone calls, private contractors such as Booz Allen do. This means that private contractors have the ability to blackmail individuals at all levels of government. Personally, it makes me wonder about the very large number of people who are "stepping down" from political office at many levels of government. It also gives them access to information along the lines of "the Saudi King's sovereign wealth fund is going to purchase Company X," which is obviously inside information they can profit from. These private contractors are the only people in America who know the identity of contributors to the "dark money" organizations. If they are pro-conservative, they can punish any large corporation that gives money to an organization that promotes liberal ideas and/or candidates. And vice-versa. What's to stop them from privately "leaking" sensitive information not to the press, but directly to campaign strategists who can use that information to defeat an incumbent?

More questions: If this program has been in place, why wasn't it used to catch practitioners of international financial fraud? Why are drug lords able to move their money around? Let's demand that white collar crime be ended. If we get close to achieving this, I can promise you that the entire program will be disbanded quickly. Once the program is used to attack the power and privileges of the 1%, it will be very quietly buried.

Mike-C's picture
Mike-C 11 years 5 days ago

It's the Patriot Act of 2001 that gives the feds the legal right to do these things. Why have so many people, including the media forgotten this? As a refresher of the constitutional rights against seach and siezure, that were lost, when this act was passed, here is a quote from the Wiki investigative article about this law.

This law authorizes -

"searches through which law enforcement officers search a home or business without the owner’s or the occupant’s permission or knowledge; the expanded use of National Security Letters, which allows the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to search telephone, e-mail, and financial records without a court order, and the expanded access of law enforcement agencies to business records, including library and financial records."

Kend's picture
Kend 11 years 5 days ago

DAnne as you know I am not to bright. thanks for clearing it up. I just couldn't understand why AZ state would go through all that trouble and money it made no sence to me.

LeMoyne's picture
LeMoyne 11 years 5 days ago
Quote RaleighMom:

More questions: If this program has been in place, why wasn't it used to catch practitioners of international financial fraud? Why are drug lords able to move their money around? Let's demand that white collar crime be ended. If we get close to achieving this, I can promise you that the entire program will be disbanded quickly. Once the program is used to attack the power and privileges of the 1%, it will be very quietly buried.


karlmarx1947's picture
karlmarx1947 11 years 5 days ago

The Meaning of the Survellance State: The Remaking of the Miltary Industrial Complex

've commented here about this (Paul Krugman's 1984) but with my new insight it is pretty clear that the Surveillance State will not stop until the NSA drives the country totally bankrupt. You see this terrorism prevention by the NSA is the governments specific solution to the lack of a credible foreign threat. The Soviet Threat was overblown but it at least was partly credible. Compared to Thermonuclear destruction terrorism is laughable and Al Qaeda at least in places like the United States is not substantial. There is simply not a sizeable foreign adversary to the United States which justifies large expenditures in things like bombers, submarines, missiles etc. You can fake a foreign government threat for only so long and build bombers and submarines to attack ghosts only so long. However, terrorism replacing the Russians has the advantage that its potentially worldwide, never ending and perpetually became an additional source of action. The genius of the NSA surveillance program is it is gargantuan open ended and requires infinite equipment, software, hardware and a fortified location. While the the arms race it might be fundamentally useless, it employs scientists and Engineers. We see the same unthinking response of Congress to the NSA that we say to bomber and missile requests. It is good old fashioned military Keynesianism and Undoubtedly fabricated cyber threats along with terrorism is a source of open ended high tech expensive investment by the U.S.. Lets hope we get spinoffs from this colossal waste. This has one bit of disadvantage, this Rube Goldberg system is supposed to compromise our privacy but as likely as not it is largely useless and probably doesn't work. No wonder the U.S. is recovering to some degree: We have revived the old military waste which is hard to justify due to declining real world threats in a major way. The people on the left who are calling for a "balanced" approach is missing the point. While this is rational from both a security and privacy point of view it will not feed the numerous contractors who fed off the Russian Threat. The Surveillance State will never end until we can focus the U.S. on a gargantuan project like an electric car, alternative energy, infrastructure repair, it will never stop. This is the new incarnation of the Military, Industrial, Congressional Complex. The more things change the more they remain the same. - See more at:

BMetcalfe's picture
BMetcalfe 11 years 5 days ago

We have known, since those first whistle blowers came forward during the Cheney Admintration, and divulged that even very PERSONAL calls between the miitary people and their spouses was being "listened to," by either the NSA or the CIA... Clips of those people who were tasked to listen gave the news a clip that showed it, 'way back then." So why are we now squeemish to learn that practically everything we do is monitered? I think Members of The Senate & Congress are more outraged about the leaks coming from Snowden, than a lot of the non-survivalists are. I think Members of the House and Senate have a lot more to fear than most of the rest of us!

It's true... I've said some harsh things about Bush & Cheney in years past. And I don't always agree with Presdent Obama, either. But I'm not afraid to voice my thoughts under my own name. I'm not a threat to any administration.

BTW, have you ever wondered if your Cable Box or your Direct TV or Dish Cable boxes are recording what you're watching, and any conversation you're having about the shows you watch?! Or your cell phones, or your cordless home sets? I have figured they're recording what I say (at least!) and perhaps even what I look like, for the past several years, but since I'm old and can't get around well, I don't think anyone will think I'm a threat.

I'm not saying it's the right thing to do to Citizens of the US... but neither are the TSA searches. I just went through another ghastly one with the TSA. You'd think, at my age, no one who looks like me would be pulled aside for a 2nd screening with a wand. I never wear anything metal when I go through the TSA search line; perhaps that's what's suspicious.

Stores - most of them - have our data. And when our cell is on, they can track what we're looking at, and where we are in the stores. Our doctors have more data than I think is needed, but there it is... Our banks, investment organzations, (you name it) has all this data, too. All the NSA has to do is get some sort of "flag" for our name (or someone who's name is close to ours), and you can't convince me the NSA won't pull up every piece of data already collected, and LISTEN to it - if they want to indict or exhonorte us from suspicion.

The horses are out of the burning barn, folks; there's nothing to reclaim and take them back to. We ARE the 1984 Generation. And the people younger than 25 are too uninformed to care.

John Blackburn's picture
John Blackburn 11 years 4 days ago

We've been misled.

We've been misled about the number of potential terrorist attacks twarted since the spying on Americans issue was first disclosed. From a potential attack to some potential attacks, to a dozen, to more than a dozen, to several dozen and now 50 - all in an attempt to sell the issue "Madison Avenue style" to the American people via a complacent and unquestioning media.

Spying had not kept Americans safe - it has eroded our Constitution, Bill of Rights and our basic protections and left a vacuum of trust in our government and the Obama administration that is more George Bush-like than Bush was himself. The government-terror-industrial-complex is alive, living and well, and the beat goes on...

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 11 years 3 days ago

At least some of those so called "potential terrorist attacks" that they claim they "thwarted" were "set-ups" that were used as a propaganda ploy to justify spying on us. They targeted people who made their dissatisfaction of our government known on the social media... blogs.. cell phones.. Twitter.. Facebook.. and even land line phones, etc. People who may have gone a little too far in fantasizing on-line were targeted to be patsies. These people did not have the means, and if it weren't for government agents, would never have had the means, to carry out any kind of actual "terrorist" attack. Government agents, befriended and encouraged "terrorist" actions and supplied what was needed to carry out terrorist operations. Many people with radical ideas at one moment may very well just cool down and forget about those ideas if they are not encouraged and supplied with the means to carry out their ideas.

These "set-ups", by our government, were examples of entrapment. It would be like putting a wallet full of money on the sidewalk and then arresting whoever picked it up for theft then loudly boasting in the media that the authorities were vigilantly protecting us from crime in order to justify really large-scale theft from the taxpayers to spend millions (or billions) of dollars on crime prevention programs.

I believe that even 911 was a kind of entrapment...a get 19 of 20 Muslim men to travel on airliners that were rigged to be guided missiles..remotely hijacked and controlled by those rich and powerful rogue elements working within and quasi-government elements planning and financing the whole false-flag action.

Quote NSA director Keith Alexander:
“I would much rather be here today debating this point than trying to explain how we failed to prevent another 9/11.”

Sounds a lot like the "Mushroom Cloud" propaganda that Bush, Cheney, Rice, etal used to talk us into illegally invading Iraq.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 11 years 3 days ago

And as so many others have already pointed out...even if they have the intel...they don't act upon it to really prevent "terrorist" attacks. They had intel from all over the place (Russian, Israel, Italy, even our own FBI agents in the field reporting to headquarters) prior to 9/11 and they didn't act to prevent 9/11 from happening. Same thing with the Boston Marathon bombing..the authorities had intel from the Russians and they chose to ignore it. It is almost as if the authorities wanted these things to happen so that we would all be very afraid and malleable to having our privacy and rights stripped away. They want us all to have a "duck and cover" mentality. They want us to believe that we will all survive if we "duck and cover" and turn over all control to the authorities who love us and want to protect us. Quick! This is a drill...break out your gas masks and duct tape and hide like scared little bunnies under your beds while repeatedly chanting the Pledge of Allegiance!

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