Appearing on ABC's "This Week," Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., defended National Security Agency access to huge volumes of telephone and Internet communications as an effective anti-terrorism tool that included ample privacy safeguards.
"The National Security Agency does not listen to Americans' phone calls and it is not reading Americans' emails," Rogers told ABC. "None of these programs allow that."
Rogers chided a reporter for the British newspaper The Guardian for not having "a clue how this thing works" and called for The Guardian's so-called whistle-blower source to be arrested for exposing details of a system the United States created to plug the intelligence holes that made the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks possible.
Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said NSA activities are limited by strict privacy protections for American citizens, but she pointed out U.S. law enforcement agencies are allowed to access telephone records in their investigations.
"The only thing taken ... is not content of a conversation, but the information that is generally on your telephone bill, which has been held not to be private personal property by the Supreme Court," Feinstein said. "If there is strong suspicion that a terrorist outside of the country is trying to reach someone on the inside of the country, those (telephone) numbers then can be obtained."