President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, July 31, 2013, during a ceremony to honor the 2013 NCAA Women s Basketball Champion team, the University of Connecticut Huskies. Credit: AP
Democratic and Republican members of Congress met with President Barack Obama Thursday at the White House to discuss the National Security Agency’s (NSA) domestic spying. The meeting included both critics and supporters of the program.
The meeting focused on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) courts that approve of surveillance. It occurred on the same day the Russian government granted temporary refugee status to Edward Snowden, the fugitive who leaked details of the surveillance program to the media.
The meeting included Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., respectively the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees and supporters of the program. It also included Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., one of the chief authors of the Patriot Act who is nevertheless skeptical of the NSA program, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., one of the leading Democratic critics.
“These are programs that have been reviewed and overseen by Congress, by the courts that contained in them sections that are designed to achieve the balance necessary between our security and our privacy and the president has made clear that he wants that balance, supports that balance, believes that balance has been found, and believes there ought to be a debate about these issues and a discussion about these issues,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters before the senators and House members arrived.
“He is meeting this afternoon, as I’m sure you know, with members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, both from the Senate and the House on these issues at his invitation – including members who have been very critical of the program,” Carney added.
Other members reportedly in the meeting included Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., Sen. Dick Dubrbin, D-Ill., and Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the NSA and FISA courts on Wednesday where members of Obama’s national security team acknowledged “hop” analysis, that would allow the reading and storing of millions of phone records when investigating just one terror suspect.
During the White House press briefing Thursday, Carney also had strong words about Russia’s decision to give Snowden temporary refugee status.
“Mr. Snowden is not a whistleblower,” Carney said. “He is accused of leaking classified information and has been charged with three felony counts and he should be returned to the United States as soon as possible where he will be accorded full due process and protections. This move by the Russian government undermines a long standing record of law enforcement cooperation, cooperation that has recently been on the upswing since the Boston Marathon bombings.”