The concerns fall into two general categories: What exactly is the NSA doing, and how can its work be more open?
“They need to provide as much clarity as they possibly can so people know and have a familiarity with what’s happening, why that happens,” said James Lankford, R-Okla., chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee. He wanted “another round of information again and to be able to process that.”
The desire to know more sparked a sometimes fiery House Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this week with top administration officials.
Conyers, the committee’s top Democrat, noted that the Fourth Amendment protects Americans from unreasonable search and seizure. “You’ve already violated the law as far as I am concerned,” Conyers said.
The ire came from both parties. “The Star Chamber . . . in England started out . . . as very popular with the people. It allowed people to get justice that otherwise would not,” said Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., referring to a court that was abolished by Parliament in 1641 over its abuses of power. “But it evolved over time into a powerful weapon for political retribution by the king.”
Litt had a ready explanation, saying the law was designed “to make sure that all three branches of government are involved, that this isn’t just the king, or the administration or an executive branch doing it.”
That court also came under tough scrutiny, as lawmakers are pressing to make it more open.
“There’s no legitimate reason to keep this legal analysis from public interest any longer,” said Conyers. Judiciary Chairman Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., was sympathetic, saying, “I share his concern about some classified information that does not need to be classified.”
William Douglas and Ali Watkins of the Washington Bureau contributed.