Obama Tries to Calm a Handful of Surveillance Critics in Closed-Door Meeting
Wyden noted that he and Udall "spent a significant portion of 2011 pressing the Intelligence Community to provide evidence to support the claims that they had made about the bulk email records program."
"They were unable to do so, and the program was shut down due to a lack of operational value, as senior intelligence officials have now publicly confirmed," he said.
And again, he stressed the deception.
"While I believe that releasing these documents is a welcome step toward greater openness and more informed debate about domestic surveillance programs, they are, in fact, further evidence of a pattern of misleading statements to Congress on this topic," Wyden said. "Similarly misleading statements about the bulk email records program were also made to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, though these statements unfortunately remain classified.”
The Oval Office meeting came not just on the day that Russia gave one-year asylum to Snowden, but a day after Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald revealed another one of Snowden's secrets: a secret NSA program called XKeyscore that "allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals."
The documents on the program give more weight to Snowden's claim that he could "wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email."
The co-chairman of the Congressional Bipartisan Privacy Caucus called the revelation “appalling, but not surprising."
"For weeks we were assured that the NSA was only collecting unidentifiable metadata that could only be accessed after a warrant was issued," said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas). "The truth is that by filling out a simple online form analysts could search your emails, your online chats and even your browsing history without prior authorization. This is a violation of your privacy, a violation of the 4th Amendment, and it is just wrong."
“We need to thoroughly investigate the use of this program and promptly pass legislation that will rein it in," Barton added.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney brushed off criticism of the surveillance programs at Thursday's briefing, saying of support for the snooping "there’s not many things that Democrats and Republicans agree on, but this seems to be one of them."
"I’m not going to engage in a discussion about or characterize our views on proposals that have been put forward -- and certainly there is more than one -- except to say that we’re in conversation with members of Congress about various ideas," Carney continued. "...I think the president, as he has made abundantly clear, welcomes the discussion and debate. He believes that the balance is essential. And I think he certainly doesn’t doubt that there are ways to improve the effectiveness of the programs that we have."
It's not lost on the White House that the House last week came surprisingly close to killing funding for the NSA's mass phone record collection in a bipartisan show of force.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), one of the co-sponsors of Rep. Justin Amash's (R-Mich.) bill, said today he's been "hearing from constituents, an enormous public outcry about reining in our national security apparatus and making sure that we have reasonable checks and balances around access to our most personal information in honoring the spirit of our Constitution."
"I think the point that Representative Amash and I are making that the American people feel is common sense, is that liberty and security are not mutually exclusive. We can and we must have them both," Polis said on MSNBC. "We can't give up what makes it special to be an American under our Constitution in the name of security, or we lose the very thing that we're trying to protect and that we cherish."