WASHINGTON — Congress wants answers about the National Security Agency’s expansion of powers in respect to sharing intercepted personal communications with 16 other federal agencies.
President Barack Obama amended an executive order last January that expanded the NSA’s abilities to share intelligence.
“So that was in the works for a long time. At this point I know that that’s out there. We’re asking questions about it. I don’t think there’s anything that that that issue would have to deal with the investigation, but we’ve asked questions about it,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes told reporters Thursday night, adding that members on the floor had asked him about it as a result of the coverage of the issue in the news.
Other intelligence committee members in their respective chambers had little to say about the effect the new rule has had. Texas Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro said he did not like to comment off the cuff on about intelligence security matters and the Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking member said he could not comment at the time.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, one of eight congressional leaders who receives exclusive intelligence information, would only say she did not believe the change in the NSA’s powers caused recent leaks about sensitive information related to the Trump administration to occur.
“I mean, I think that we all don’t want everybody in pipeline, so we’re not having the benefit of information or intelligence to keep the American people safe. But I don’t think that has anything to do with leaks,” she said.
Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert warned that reversing the NSA’s expansion would be more difficult now.
“Sure, that could be reversed. But it’s one of those things where you’d be able to put you know that virus back into the little box or is it growing and spread too far, because you know it’s a legitimate question,” Gohmert said.
He explained, “Now that the intelligence community has seen what it’s like to spread what is supposed to be very private confidential classified wiretap information, and that’s spread across 16 or 17 other federal agencies. I don’t know if they would want to give that up. And even if they change the executive order, if that will be complied with.”
Gohmert added, “This is a very scary time for those of us who believe in a constitutional democratic republic.”