As the American public sees the terror plots that have been stopped by the NSA spying program it will begin to embrace it, Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan said Sunday on CNN.
Rogers' view was seconded by the former head of the CIA and NSA, who said on Sunday that the country will become more accepting of programs aimed at stopping terrorism once they better understand them.
"There's a natural instinct by the way we cover these sorts of things to rush the story to the darkest corner of the room. But I don't think that's where this story belongs," Gen. Michael Hayden said Sunday on "Meet the Press."
In recent days National Security Agency Director Keith B. Alexander and members of Congress have been touting terror plots they say were foiled by the PRISM program leaked by former contract employee Edward Snowden.
A recent Pew/Washington Post poll showed that 56 percent of respondents thought it was OK for the National Security Agency to get secret court orders to track the phone calls of millions of Americans. Forty-one percent were opposed.
As "more accurate" information is learned about the program the number will hold and even expand, Hayden said. As Americans learn about the safeguards and the effects of the program they will become more comfortable with it, he predicted.
It was unfortunate, Hayden said that the PRISM and metadata stories came out at same time and have been interwoven together in public discourse.
"The metadata story does touch upon Americans in a massive way, with phone records, but not the content," Hayden said. "The PRISM story is about foreigners, and it is about content."
But since the two programs have become intertwined in that national consciousness, they have harmed "a rational national debate," Hayden said.
Rogers said there are dozens of examples of plots being thwarted, singling out the New York City subway bombing plot that, by some estimates, might have killed 1,000 people had it been successful.
But in talking about those successes, the chairman of House Intelligence Committee said the government should be as accurate as possible while not disclosing a source or method of how an attack was foiled.
"We don't want to draw a roadmap for the folks who are trying to kill Americans," he told CNN.
As people get a better feeling that the program is a "lockbox" with only phone numbers, and no names or addresses, Rogers said he believes public perception will turn. "We've used it sparingly. It is absolutely overseen by the legislature, the judicial branch and the executive branch."
He admits, though, that some might argue they still don't want the database, even without names and addresses.
"Then we need to say, 'What is the consequence of not having that information?'" he said. "I think it's harder to catch (terrorists) if we don't have something like this."
Americans need not worry there is a mass surveillance of what they are saying on the phone or typing in emails, he said. "That is just not happening."
Not only would it be against the law to do so, he said, it also would mean that the NSA would have to conspire with the FBI, both parties in Congress and the oversight functions in the executive branch.
"I find that implausible," he said.
Snowden, who leaked the program that collects metadata on every phone call, email and other online communications, is not a whistleblower, Rogers said. A whistleblower would have taken the information to the appropriate authorities rather than fleeing to a foreign country and giving the information to the press, he said.
"I'm an old FBI guy, I think you have to ask a lot of hard questions," Rogers said. "Why did he make preparations to go to China for months? Why did he grab information that was well beyond the bounds of what he said he was disclosing for the purposes of privacy protection? And, by the way, he didn't even get that right.
"I think he has betrayed his country," Rogers said.
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