The US Director of National Intelligence supported seeking Supreme Court guidance on the legality of NSA spying programs. (Agence France-Presse)
WASHINGTON — Under questioning from a hard-nosed senator, America’s top intelligence official on Wednesday endorsed an expedited Supreme Court ruling on controversial NSA spying programs.
Senate Intelligence Committee member Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat who has scored several recent wins as Appropriations Committee chair, hit pay dirt again when she pressed Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about whether NSA monitoring of email and telephone records is constitutional.
Mikulski told the DNI that Obama administration officials and lawmakers owe rank-and-file members of the Pentagon’s NSA an answer on whether agency-run programs that collect massive amounts of email and telephone traffic are acceptable under US law.
Clapper pivoted when she first posed the question, saying he could not speak for the entire Obama administration.
But he then addressed the question directly, telling Mikulski he sees no reason why the administration and intelligence community would oppose asking the High Court to resolve differing lower-level court rulings about the controversial programs.
The NSA is based in Mikulski’s state, meaning the men and women about which she spoke are her constituents.
NSA employee proponent Mikulski joins civil-liberties advocates on Capitol Hill, like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in calling for the Supreme Court to clear up the lower-court difference. ■