Sen. Feinstein and Rep. Rogers welcome president’s speech on signals intelligence

Feinstein and Rogers
Feinstein (left) and Rogers

The chairs of the Senate and House intelligence committees joined forces to praise President Obama’s speech on January 17 on changes to the nation’s signal intelligence policies, and the lawmakers called on the White House to draft legislation that would facilitate the government’s use of telephone metadata.

“Today President Obama gave a strong speech in defense of the need to collect and use intelligence in order to protect the nation and to prevent terrorist attacks around the world,” said a prepared statement issued by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI). “We strongly agree with his comments in support and praise of the professionals in our intelligence community who do this work while upholding the civil liberties and privacy rights of all Americans.”

They said they were pleased the president underscored the importance of using telephone metadata to rapidly identify possible terrorist plots, a gap that existed on September 11, 2001, and which has been closed through the NSA’s collection of telephone metadata under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.

“We have carefully reviewed this program and have found it to be legal and effective. And for seven months, both the House and Senate intelligence committees have developed legislation to provide additional safeguards on the program, while keeping the data where it is most secure and effective.”

Feinstein and Rogers noted that the president had announced his intention to seek approvals from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court prior to querying the Section 215 database.

“If instituted, that approval process must be made faster in the future than it was in the past — when it took up to nine days to gain Court approval for a single search,” said their prepared statement. “We encourage the White House to send legislation with the president’s proposed changes to Congress so they can be fully debated.”

“President Obama said today that U.S. intelligence programs have ‘made us more secure’ and that nothing indicates that our intelligence community ‘has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens.’ We agree and look forward to working with the president to increase confidence in these programs,” concluded Feinstein and Rogers.