House Speaker John Boehner cautioned on Friday that President Barack Obama's plans to scale back the National Security Agency needed to be reviewed as to how they would jeopardize the nation's security.
"Our national security programs exist to root out terrorist threats and save American lives — and they have," the Ohio Republican said in a statement. "Because the president has failed to adequately explain the necessity of these programs, the privacy concerns of some Americans are understandable.
"When considering any reforms, however, keeping Americans safe must remain our top priority," Boehner added. "When lives are at stake, the president must not allow politics to cloud his judgment.
"I look forward to learning more about how the new procedure for accessing data will not put Americans at greater risk. And the House will review any legislative reforms proposed by the administration, but we will not erode the operational integrity of critical programs that have helped keep America safe."
Obama said on Friday that his administration would move to reassure Americans and foreigners that the United States would address the privacy concerns brought on by last year's leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Among the decisions announced,
the president said that the NSA would now have to obtain an order from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to access the vast "metadata" trove of Internet and telephone activity it collects on a daily basis.
Obama also said that the United States would not eavesdrop on the heads of state or government of close American friends and allies and that the metadata would no longer be stored by the government.
Boehner was among several House Republicans who emphasized the importance of national security and the need for Obama to involve Congress in any decisions that affect the NSA.
"I didn't think any changes were called for, any so-called reforms, but the fact is the ones that the president made today are really minimal," Rep. Peter King, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, told CNN.
"So long as the NSA can move quickly to protect us against plots, that's all that is necessary: that the data is there, and the NSA is able to move quickly," King said.
Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn said that: "President Obama might have a ‘pen and a phone,’ but he does not have the trust of the American people — especially when it comes to the issue of protecting their privacy. This issue must come before Congress for both action and oversight."
Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona said that he remained "concerned about the privacy rights of American citizens.
"We must err on the side of freedom," he said in a statement. "The NSA’s collection of domestic data on U.S. citizens must be limited in scope and related to a duly authorized investigation. This would allow our national security community the tools they need to fight the ever-changing battle against terrorism, while preserving our constitutional rights.
"We must remain vigilant to ensure that law-abiding Americans’ information isn’t needlessly swept up into a government database and that Congress can fulfill its duty of oversight, enacting enact sound laws and fixing broken ones," Salmon said.
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