Congressman MIKE ROGERS | Representing Michigan’s 8th Congressional District


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Mike in the News

Detroit News: Rogers to urge Obama to use caution in changing surveillance programs

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Washington, Jan 8 | comments

Washington— U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers said he will meet with President Barack Obama Thursday and urge caution in making changes to the controversial National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.

Rogers, chairman of House Intelligence Committee and leading defender of the NSA phone and Internet surveillance programs, will join other intelligence leaders to discuss what recommendations Obama should implement from a recent NSA presidential task force report.

Rogers said Wednesday he hopes Obama will reject one recommendation in particular. The task force urged the NSA to stop storing the bulky phone records of millions of Americans. The electronic records — numbers dialed, and duration and date of calls — should by held by private providers or a third party where the government can query it when justified for national security reasons by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA court), the report urged.

“I would hope that we wouldn’t go down that path,” Rogers told The News. “But we’re going to have that discussion tomorrow and hopefully we’ll come out with a good outcome that allows us to fill a (national security) gap that we found.”

Rogers is concerned about mandating private companies to handle information “that they’re not quite equipped to do today and safeguard it in the same way the government can safeguard it.”

The once-secret NSA programs came to light last year when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked and the British Guardian newspaper revealed the U.S. government collects millions of telephone records indiscriminately and in bulk — regardless of whether the caller is suspected of any wrongdoing. The records are aggregated into one database where the NSA analysts try to discern connections among terrorists through targeted computer searches.

Rogers, a Howell Republican, has defended the NSA programs as vital to national security and responsible for thwarting 54 terrorist plots. Obama and Rogers were united in their support for the program last summer and successfully defeated an amendment by U.S. Reps. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, and John Conyers, D-Detroit, in July to curb the phone surveillance programs.

The programs since have come under scrutiny by U.S. allies, additional Snowden leaks were reported and a federal district court judge ruled in December the phone collection program was likely unconstitutional.

Obama signaled in December he’s open to changes in the NSA programs to strike a balance between national security and civil liberties. He said he expects to make “a pretty definitive statement” this month on how to refine the program.

The NSA report Obama commissioned made 46 recommendations in all. Among the other suggestions: curbing the power of FISA courts to compel phone companies to turn over records, making the director of the NSA a Senate-confirmed position and ideally a civilian, and having Congress approve legislation to encourage more transparency about the program.

Civil liberty activists have urged Obama to adopt the changes. Lawmakers in Congress, including Amash and Conyers, have renewed their legislative efforts this year to stop the blanket collection of Americans’ phone records.

But Rogers remains steadfast the NSA program fills a significant gap in intelligence gathering that was revealed with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks.

“This was one of the gaps that allowed terrorists overseas to use American communications systems to give orders to initiate blowing up the twin towers, flying into the Pentagon and nearly flying into the U.S. Capitol,” Rogers said Wednesday. “So this was a gap that we filled in, and we put lots of civil liberties protections (in place.) We put in protections in a way that no other government program has.

“If we are arguing on all the same data points, I think Americans would feel a lot better about what’s going on and hopefully we’ll have that conversation with the president tomorrow.”

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