Congressman Jim Himes, whose district includes part of Shelton, told the director of the National Security Agency (NSA) that “the breadth and the scope” of the intelligence agency’s monitoring of Verizon phone accounts was troubling.
“They trouble me because of the breadth and the scope of the information collection,” Himes said while questioning NSA Director Keith Alexander at a Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on the NSA’s information collection programs.
‘This is historically unprecedented’
“They trouble me,” Himes continued, “because I think this is historically unprecedented in the extent of the data that is being collected on potentially all American citizens and, the controls which you’ve laid out for us notwithstanding, that’s — I think — new for this country. We know that when a capability exists, there’s a potential for abuse.”
(Story continues below)
To see a video of Himes’ exchange at the committee hearing, click here:
Himes told the panel, which also included U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole and FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce, that he was troubled by the extent of the NSA’s data collection on American citizens.
The three-term Democrat also asked Alexander where they draw the line on the information they collect and retain, and how material this collection was in thwarting planned terrorist attacks.
‘The very constitutional core’
In a separate message sent to supporters through his campaign email account, Himes said recent disclosures about the tracking of private communications by federal intelligence agencies “go to the very constitutional core of the relationship between government and citizen.”
Himes said “we need to draw some bright lines around where and when government can encroach on ancient civil liberties. The latest revelations come on the heels of the Department of Justice’s aggressive treatment of the Associated Press, which I suspect is already having an effect on the media’s willingness to report the foibles and overreaches of the government.”
Twisting the country
“It’s a cliché to say so, but keep going down this path, and the terrorists do win by causing us to twist our own free country into something none of us would recognize or embrace,” he said.
Himes said there is a lot of misinformation and exaggeration about the collection efforts and he has so far seen no evidence that laws have been broken, “but rather that laws have been way too broadly written and too broadly interpreted.”
Partisan outlook disturbing
Himes also said he was disturbed by how people’s political views seem to impact how they feel about intelligence-collecting efforts under different administrations.
“One of the several troubling aspects of the recent disclosures of the NSA program to collect comprehensive telephone data on Americans is the flipping of much of the American public,” Himes said. “Polling shows that many of those who were upset over the Bush administration’s encroachment on civil liberties are much less concerned when the Obama administration does it.
“And many of those who defended Bush, Cheney, et al, are now screaming from the rooftops at this administration’s activities,” he said.
Shelton is in two congressional districts
Himes lives in Greenwich and was first elected to Congress in 2008. He represents the Fourth District, which includes most of Fairfield County.
The city of Shelton is divided between the Fourth District, represented by Himes, and the Third District, represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro.