Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra says President Obama was wrong when he told the nation that every member of Congress had been briefed on the National Security Agency's surveillance programs before they were leaked to the press by Edward Snowden.
"No, that's not the case. Back in 2004, it was a Gang of Four issue, meaning the chair and the ranking member of the House and Senate intelligence committees [knew about it]," Hoekstra told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
"For most of these programs, the only people that have access to it in the House of Representatives are those who sit on the House Intelligence Committee."
The Michigan Republican, who served as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, added that even just three weeks ago, "the only people that would have been consistently briefed and would know about all the particulars of this program would be the members of the House Intelligence Committee."
Hoekstra said the public has to be reassured about the importance of the anti-terrorism programs.
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But he agrees that could be difficult with the many scandals swirling in Washington, including targeting by the IRS and the surveillance of journalists by the Justice Department.
"The only way you're going to allay the fears of the American people is if in six months … they fired 30 people at the IRS, eight of them going to jail because they broke the law," he said.
"I share the fears of … many of my former constituents who say, well people aren't going to pay a price for breaking a law …"
The White House has said that the surveillance programs being used by the National Security Agency do not monitor actual conservations but only numbers and email addresses.
But Hoekstra believes it is possible that the conversations could be accessed if needed.
"It'd be very, very difficult because you have to go back and you have to go get more information and all of those kinds of things. [Bu] these tech folks, they're really, really smart people," he said.
"It's the same thing in the IRS. It's very, very hard to hold up one set of groups' data and approval process, but it happened. I'm not going to sit here and say it can't happen. It can, and that's why you need strict oversight and straight accountability."
On Tuesday, National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander told a House committee that in excess of 50 terror threats have been cut short with the help of the two controversial surveillance programs it uses.
"It's accurate. It's one of the statements that Keith Alexander is going to regret that he made today," Hoekstra predicted.
"I look at it more as, the NSA program is part of a huge puzzle and it's very, very difficult to go back and say, this particular piece of the puzzle is what stopped that attack.
"There are going to have people who … say, well wait a minute, you could have gotten the information on these other tools and all those kinds of things. The bottom line is that the NSA program is an instrumental part of the total intelligence package that's working to keep America safe."
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