Government Surveillance in the Headlines

The headlines were full of intelligence leaks once again this week, this time pulling back a couple layers on US electronic surveillance operations.

The administration reacted by pointing out that Congress, as well as the judicial branch, okayed these programs and continues to excercise its oversight responsibilites.

One senator who has consistently opposed these programs is Republican Rand Paul from Kentucky.

“Looking at a billion phone calls a day, doesn’t sound like modest invasions of privacy, it sounds like an extraordinary” invasion of privacy, Paul said in response to the president's characterization of surveillance operations this week.

Paul added that he has "no problem going after those with probable cause, get a warrant, go after a terrorist," but Paul said, "don’t troll through a billion phone calls."

Paul said he wants to challenge it at the Supreme Court with a class action suit.

General Michael Hayden, who has headed both the CIA and the NSA, has firsthand knowledge of these programs, having been instrumental in the implementation of some of it.

Hayden said reports that government is “trolling through” billions of records is “not true.”

The former NSA director defended the programs, describing them as far more targeted than has been reported.

General Hayden added that “two very different presidents are doing pretty much the same thing” with regard to surveillance, and this “seems to suggest these things do work.”

Asked what President Obama has done differently, Hayden said he has “expanded (the) volume, changed legal grounding a little bit. Added a bit more oversight.” 

Hayden pointed to an “incredible continuity” over the two presidents’ exercise of the program to attest to its soundness and success.