Transcript for NSA Chief to Face Congressional Hearing
This is a special report from ABC news. I'm tired and is in new York and this is an ABC news digital special report the NSA is under the microscope today as its leader general Keith Alexander visits. The senate appropriations committee to talk cyber security. At least that's the plan more likely there'll be lots of questions about the agency's cyber surveillance of American citizens both online and through phone records. Capitol Hill now and take a look at the hearing while -- joined by ABC news political director Rick Klein high ranked. -- -- Our -- with the exception of senator with all this committee is full of surveillance advocates. And everything -- -- general Alexander face tough questions today or is this going to be more -- show of support. This is the first time that he's faced any congressional committee since the revelations emerged last week about the twin programs phone electronic communication. A lot of questions on Capitol Hill this is a surprise some members a lot a lot of other Democrats shrug their shoulders as that we've known about this all along there's a mix on this committee of people that are behind this program -- where people that -- blind sided by it. It is in the Intelligence Committees and -- in the exact same folks who work most apprised of this -- most concerned about but I would expect some interest in questions to say the least. Not just about the in the program and how it works but also about how forthcoming. People in the intelligence community -- -- about this have been questions I think serious ones about. Previous rounds of questioning on Capitol Hill and whether people are being president of power were totally forthright with congress on this so I think it did reflecting the concern in the public we're gonna see congress makes -- noise that. Yes it does seem like a lot of lawmakers were taken aback by the scope. This program is -- surprising given the fact that they are supposed to be clued in on this. Every member of congress had access to this information they had briefings. -- inside the capitol to take care of this but unless you remember one of the committees or you got kind of a -- from a colleague. You're unlikely as the rank and file member of congress to take advantage of those briefings and -- one lovely say well let figured your -- and a terrible -- intended to conduct your yourself as a lawmaker in their defense there's so many of these briefings that happened on so many subjects unless you're ready into. To a particular subject you're likely to avail yourself of those opportunities so. For a large number of members of congress is actually wasn't surprised certainly the extent that it wasn't surprised even though the details were available to each and every one of them. How much are we really going to here today if this issue does indeed come up this -- a public open hearing. Is big government the Obama administration perhaps going to send them. Message. And threw Alexander even if we don't get the full story. They've declassified. A number abroad he tells about this program in the wake of the revelations trying to. Rebut some of the misconceptions and I would expect that general Alexander as the Director of National Intelligence James clapper has -- saying as president self last week said. They'll talk about the the the limits of this program those of ways it doesn't intrude on personal privacy ways that. That people this is not only the government is listening to phone calls -- pointed that all government officials are making so I think that likely outline pieces of it and talk about the importance of it. And I think make a pretty strong case of the importance of continuing the program and that's something that they're gonna get plenty of support in that he. -- about. Polls on this subject -- pretty -- and in some people feel that they -- in support of the general idea but I'm comfortable with it at the same time. How do you think we'll see that reflected in the questioning. -- -- senators. I think for a lot of people puritans -- pop culture if you watched 24 you -- homeland you probably thought this is happening anyway. -- a lot of folks believe in the death of balance has been struck and they're not worried about this program as long as. I it is and is it something where you're collecting data on will prolonged period of time you're using it. For other purposes other than to catch terrorists overseas it seems -- there are safeguards in place. But I do think that there's a -- general uncomfortable in this if you will with a lot of members of the -- public a lot of members of congress about the scope of this that. You -- is in essence creating it. A government record of every phone call -- -- in the United States whether or not that involves someone on foreign soil whether that they're not that and involves the foreign. -- a suspected terrorists even on domestic terrorist so. The fact that all that information is there you may have assumed that it was there but it was jarring for so many people to find out about this program to -- -- the government. He's compiling this record is doing a similar try to kind of tracking on the electronic side of things. You may suspect it and -- certainly people led -- on on both sides the left and the right who never liked it in the first place but I think having it all there has been jarring. If companies like FaceBook and Google now coming out saying that they have not given the NSA an open door into their data banks is this going to affect. Public opinion perhaps -- -- perception of this when you have companies trying to distance themselves from this program. You you have a number of these companies saying we want to be free to say more about what this is -- it is it because. We feel like if we tell the public fully what is going on with our communications with our records don't feel better about it. And if -- FaceBook if your goal there is nothing more important to your -- and the idea of personal privacy. They can't afford -- the people don't use that service is there were about the information that it is that -- collecting the already faced criticism on the corporate side -- things because ads are sold on it and sponsorships are. Surrounding the personal information that you pour into these services. So they can't they can't have the perception that the government is essentially tapping directly into their -- so they'd like to be able to see more about what the program -- and what it isn't. Rick Klein ABC news political director thank you so much for joining us.
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