Bachmann Responds to President Obama’s NSA Speech

Jan 17, 2014

Washington, D.C. -- Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (MN-06), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, released the following statement today in response to President Obama’s speech regarding the NSA:

“Before today’s speech at the Department of Justice, President Obama had been largely absent from this debate and had failed to explain why these programs are essential to America’s national security.

“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.  Simply put, our intelligence community is focused on foreign intelligence gathering—not domestic surveillance—and that is what they have done.

“The President also rightly explained that under the Section 215 program, the contents of the American people’s phone calls and emails are not being listened to, despite some claims to the contrary. 

“However, I am troubled by some of President Obama’s proposed changes that could undercut our national security. For instance, establishing a panel of personal advocates before the FISA Court, which is focused on foreign intelligence collection, could mean giving an extra level of protection to suspected terrorists that goes above and beyond the rights of the American people. In addition, the President proposed moving metadata storage outside of the NSA, but did not disclose where and how the records would be impenetrable like they are now. 

“These leaks by Edward Snowden, who betrayed his country, have caused unknowable damage to America’s national security. Terrorists already are changing their methods and our intelligence gathering has been degraded as a result of these leaks.

“Moving forward, Congress must have a robust debate about the recommendations that President Obama outlined today. And our objective must be to find the right balance between protecting the American people’s civil liberties under the Constitution and keeping the American people safe from terrorists who want to do us harm.”

Key Excerpts from President Obama's Speech
“What I did not do is stop these programs wholesale – not only because I felt that they made us more secure; but also because nothing in that initial review, and nothing that I have learned since, indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens. 

“To the contrary, in an extraordinarily difficult job, one in which actions are second-guessed, success is unreported, and failure can be catastrophic, the men and women of the intelligence community, including the NSA, consistently follow protocols designed to protect the privacy of ordinary people. They are not abusing authorities in order to listen to your private phone calls, or read your emails. When mistakes are made – which is inevitable in any large and complicated human enterprise – they correct those mistakes. Laboring in obscurity, often unable to discuss their work even with family and friends, they know that if another 9/11 or massive cyber-attack occurs, they will be asked, by Congress and the media, why they failed to connect the dots. What sustains those who work at NSA through all these pressures is the knowledge that their professionalism and dedication play a central role in the defense of our nation.”

“In sum, the program does not involve the NSA examining the phone records of ordinary Americans. Rather, it consolidates these records into a database that the government can query if it has a specific lead – phone records that the companies already retain for business purposes. The Review Group turned up no indication that this database has been intentionally abused. And I believe it is important that the capability that this program is designed to meet is preserved.”