Growing weary of a steady trickle of revelations regarding surveillance methods and overreach by the National Security Agency, Sen. Bob Corker asked President Barack Obama to schedule a full Senate briefing by NSA head Gen. Keith Alexander.
The senator, who is the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, set a Sept. 13 deadline for the briefing, adding that he had become "deeply concerned" at a pattern of recent briefings and declassification efforts not providing a "fulsome accounting" of U.S. intelligence programs for members of Congress. Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, cited a recent Washington Post report that revealed the NSA had "overstepped its legal authority" thousands of times each year since 2008—details he said had not been shared in previous briefings.
"Members of Congress regularly read new revelations on the front pages of various newspapers," Corker wrote. "Even more troubling, members of Congress are left to wonder why the prior briefings provided by the executive branch did not cover the material presented in these articles."
In June, Corker attended a closed Senate briefing where top intelligence officials, including Alexander and James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence, sought to explain secrets revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden regarding NSA collection of phone and Internet data. Earlier that month, the senator had requested an explanation as to why the collection of phone data of U.S. citizens was integral to national security.
In his new letter, Corker suggested a briefing should address "the totality" of NSA operations, including and not limited to those already revealed.
"In my view, given the scope and scale of the disclosures to date and the significant likelihood of more to come, it is now all the more important that the administration come to Congress and provide a full accounting of the totality of these efforts," he said.
Corker, who was elected to the Senate in 2006, has voted in favor of legislation in the past that allowed the government to access phone and Internet information. In 2011, the senator supported an extension of the Patriot Act; and in 2012, he voted to reauthorize the FISA Amendments Act, allowing its provisions to continue until 2017.
The senator's office has since suggested that the new actions reported regarding NSA surveillance could have possibly been in violation of requirements detailed in previous legislation.
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