INDIANAPOLIS | U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Indianapolis, accused the National Security Agency Monday of violating constitutional protections against unlawful searches following disclosures the spy agency collected and stored the telephone and Internet records of all Americans.
The Munster native, whose Congressional district includes Newton and Jasper counties, said during an Indianapolis radio interview the NSA's intelligence gathering crossed the "bright line" of the Fourth Amendment.
"Why does the government have to possess every one of our phone calls everyday in order to keep us secure?" Rokita asked. "It may be less convenient for them to go get a probable cause warrant or a reasonable suspicion warrant or even issue one themselves and then go to the private-sector possessors of this data. But that is the line. That is what you're supposed to do."
"You don't just get blanket information on all of us, suspect or not, and then decide whether or not you want to use it," he added.
Rokita said he doesn't know if Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who leaked evidence of the PRISM surveillance program, is a traitor to the United States as former Vice President Dick Cheney claims.
At the very least Snowden is a felon and should be prosecuted, Rokita said. At the same time, he continued, everyday Americans and even most members of Congress never would have learned of the programs without Snowden's disclosures.
"Am I glad that this came out? Absolutely. Do I think he caused this country irreparable harm by showing what this government is doing? Absolutely not," Rokita said. "The fact is now America knows this information and we have a chance to determine whether or not we care."
NSA officials have said their gathering of phone and e-mail records helped halt "dozens" of potential terrorist plots in the United States and 20 other countries.
Rokita said he finds it hard to trust the Obama administration is doing the right thing with the NSA in the wake of recent scandals involving heightened tax scrutiny of conservative groups and secret subpoenas of reporter phone records.
But Rokita said he'd still be skeptical even if Republican former President George W. Bush was overseeing the NSA program, noting that he voted in 2011 against renewing the 2001 Patriot Act that is believed to provide legal justification for domestic NSA spying.
U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, also has consistently opposed the Patriot Act.
He was among just 66 representatives in the 435-member House to vote no on the original Patriot Act, which became law six weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Visclosky also voted against its renewal.