The constitutionality of the NSA data collection program has to be made by the U.S. Supreme Court rather than any district court, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"That's the kind of decision, it seems to me, the Supreme Court should be making. Not a district court judge, whose primary responsibility is to follow precedent in applying the law," Gonzales said Tuesday.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled Monday
the mass collection of phone records by the NSA was unconstitutional. Leon put a stay on his ruling pending a likely appeal.
Gonzales, who served under President George W. Bush, said the program should have strict supervision by Congress. If it appeared abuses were taking place, he maintained it would be worthwhile to question the program's viability.
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"If it appears that the agency is incapable of exercising its authorities without abuse, then it is legitimate to look to see whether or not continued use of these programs makes sense, because it's important to protect the privacy interests of Americans, the constitutional rights of American citizens," he said.
Gonzales voiced surprise the government did not present any cases before Judge Leon of how the program prevented terrorist attacks. If it was not effective toward that end, Gonzales said it was legitimate to question its use.
"If, in fact, they're not being used to protect our country, why are we engaged in this kind of activity? It's a very important question," he said.
The fact that the program has been brought to light gives people the opportunity to voice their opinions to elected officials, Gonzales said. Congress must continue to ensure the NSA is operating "in a way that can be reassuring to the American people that their rights are being protected."
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