Former senators say Congress needs to rein in the NSA

Mondale and Hart call for an independent surveillance task force

By , IDG News Service |  Internet

The NSA's "vacuum cleaner approach" to collecting U.S. residents' phone records evokes mass surveillance written about by George Orwell, added Loch Johnson, former special assistant to the Church Committee, now a political science professor at the University of Georgia. U.S. lawmakers need to reassert their oversight responsibilities over the NSA, he said.

A new investigation into the NSA should "take a hard look" at whether the surveillance court is going beyond approving warrants and making policy, Mondale said.

A representative of the NSA referred questions about a new Church Committee to the U.S. Department of Justice. A DOJ spokesman declined to comment.

Hart challenged the audience at Tuesday's event to think about ways to protect privacy while maintaining security. "You have to think about the nature of privacy in this new world, and how much you are willing to risk to maintain and protect that privacy," he said. "I think that is the critical question of our democracy in the years to come."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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