Republican congressman Bob Goodlatte calls for 'robust oversight' of NSA programs and that 'further protections are necessary'

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said on Wednesday that he believed "further protections are necessary" to protect Americans' civil liberties from the nation's surveillance programs.

After a classified hearing with senior intelligence officials, Republican congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) called for "robust oversight" of intelligence programs.

"Over the past few months, the House Judiciary Committee has conducted vigorous oversight of our nation's foreign surveillance programs, including today's classified hearing," Goodlatte said.

"I appreciate the witnesses' testimony today further detailing these programs and the current practices employed by the agencies to protect US citizens' civil liberties.

However, I am convinced that further protections are necessary."

At the classified hearing on Wednesday, members of the committee questioned a number of officials from the NSA, FBI, Department of Justice and the office of the director of national intelligence.

Goodlatte's call for further protections is a sign of the dissatisfaction in Congress over the NSA's surveillance programs. In July, an amendment calling for stricter controls over the administration's use of phone call data failed by only 12 votes in Congress.

"I am committed to working with members of the committee, House leaders, and other members of Congress to ensure our nation's intelligence collection programs include robust oversight, additional transparency, and protections for Americans' civil liberties," Goodlatte said on Wednesday.

He added that any enhanced protections should maintain "a workable legal framework for national security officials to keep our country safe from foreign enemies".

Goodlatte urged his fellow members of Congress to vote no on an amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act in July. That amendment was introduced by Michigan Republican Justin Amash, who said his aim was to "defend the Fourth Amendment, to defend the privacy of each and every American."

The final vote was 205 in favor and 217, with the measure only failing after an unlikely bipartisan coalition including Democrat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Republican House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) rallied party members against it.

Goodlatte suggested at the time that he thought the Amash amendment too gung-ho but insisted he was supportive of stricter controls on surveillance.

"While many members have legitimate questions about the NSA metadata program, including whether there are sufficient protections for Americans' civil liberties, eliminating this program altogether without careful deliberation would not reflect our duty, under article I of the constitution, to provide for the common defense," he said.

"We are committed to assisting all of our colleagues in reviewing this program, and we will continue to develop appropriate additional protections.

"We believe such changes should recognize both the privacy interests and security needs of every American, while reflecting actual intelligence and law enforcement operations."

© Guardian News and Media 2013

[Image via Rep. Bob Goodlatte Facebook page]