NSA critics to decry intelligence 'lies' at congressional hearing

NSA critics to decry intelligence 'lies' at congressional hearing
Critics of the National Security Agency’s vast surveillance programs will be provided with a platform to speak out against the spy agency on Wednesday at a congressional hearing.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) told the Guardian on Friday that a bipartisan group of lawmakers have begun organizing a hearing to be held in the middle of next week in order to counter the "constant misleading information" being presented by the United States intelligence community.

In the wake of a stream of leaked NSA documents that have been published since early June, a number of officials with insider knowledge of the surveillance programs have defended the government’s tactics to members of Congress. NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, President Barack Obama, and top figures from the Department of Justice have all shared words of support for the surveillance program, but Grayson said the debate in Washington has thus far been one-sided.

"I have been concerned about the fact that we have heard incessantly in recent weeks from General Keith Alexander and Mr. James Clapper about their side of the story," Rep. Grayson told the Guardian. "We have barely heard anything in Congress from critics of the program.

"Both Congress and the American people deserve to hear both sides of the story," Grayson said. "There has been constant misleading information – and worse than that, the occasional outright lie – from the so-called intelligence community in their extreme, almost hysterical efforts, to defend these programs."

According to the lawmaker, critics of the program will appear in Washington on Wednesday for “an ad hoc, bipartisan hearing on domestic surveillance.”

Earlier this week, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan) attempted to persuade his congressional colleagues to outright end the NSA’s collection of phone records pertaining to millions of Americans. But his effort to advance an amendment in the House of Representatives was narrowly defeated by only a dozen votes.

"We came close (205-217). If just 7 Reps had switched their votes, we would have succeeded. Thank YOU for making a difference. We fight on,” Amash tweeted Wednesday evening after the vote.

Speaking to the Guardian, Rep. Garyson said that Amash has “declared an interest in the hearing,” along with a handful of other Republicans known for their libertarian points of views.

Also on Friday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) spoke out against the growing anti-surveillance trend within the more liberty-minded members of the GOP, saying, "This strain of libertarianism that's going through parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought.”

"These esoteric, intellectual debates - I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation. And they won't, because that's a much tougher conversation to have," Christie said.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) called the governor’s remark “dangerous” and said on Twitter that "Christie worries about the dangers of freedom. I worry about the danger of losing that freedom. Spying without warrants is unconstitutional.” Paul and Christie have both been rumored to be possible Republican presidential nominees in 2016.

Sen. Paul said previously that he'd consider suing the Obama administration over the NSA's tactics. The White House has already been targeted in lawsuits by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and a number of other groups.