Yesterday, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) joined the radio program for what Glenn described as a ‘battle of the titans.’ Rep. Bachmann sought to explain her reasoning behind voting against an amendment that would have defunded the NSA program that allows the government to collect phone records. She even went so far as to argue on behalf of the program prior to the vote. Despite her bet attempts, Glenn was still not persuaded to change his position.
This morning on radio, Diane Roark, a NSA whistleblower and former staff member of the House Intelligence Committee, called in to discuss her experience and to explain why she disagrees with Rep. Bachmann’s analysis of the agency. In March, Roark appeared on the first episode of TheBlaze’s investigative news magazine For The Record: Surveillance State.
“Well, Michelle was on yesterday and she was making claims that there's no evidence that any of this stuff is happening,” Glenn said. “If they aren't collecting, then why do we have the NSA collection facility?”
Glenn then introduced Roark to the program. Like Rep. Bachmann, Roark served on the House Intelligence Committee and would be familiar with the information she has access to and is basing her judgments off of. In many respects, Roark explained that the Committee staff actually has access to more information than the congressmen because it is there responsibility to provide the applicable research.
“Okay, so I asked you yesterday if you would listen to the interview [with Rep. Bachmann] and tell me if I was wrong, or if she had information – you don't have current information – but if you could explain to me how I was seeing it, and I was misguided or how she was seeing it and she was misguided,” Glenn said to Roark.
“Yes, her main point was that all of the speculation about government collection of the contents of both e-mails and phone calls was incorrect, and that she had tracked this down, mainly by going to General Keith Alexander, the head of NSA and asking him about it, and he had denied that the contents were collected,” she explained. “She admitted they are collecting the metadata on U.S. citizens, but they didn't seem to bother her. She only alluded to it once. What she was mainly focused on was they were not allegedly collecting the content of either e-mails or phone calls.”
Roark, however, does not agree with Rep. Bachmann’s claims. “I believe there's plenty of evidence that they have collected some content at least on phone calls and on e-mails,” she said. “They collected content from the beginning, and there's quite a bit of evidence on that, including my own personal experience.”
“Do you care to get into that,” Glenn asked.
“Yes. When Bill Benny [former NSA intelligence officer and whistleblower] first came to me, he told me about the collection of both e-mail and phone calls,” Roark explained. “And then actually I and some other staffers were briefed on one line of collection of e-mails in early March of 2002, about a month before I retired. And at that briefing, they also discussed that they were doing three hops. I don't know if you have gotten into this. What this means is that they were going way out to collecting a lot of information. So if a foreign person contacted a U.S. person, they would collect not only that conversation, but one hop beyond that, which is to the next person – to the person in the U.S. who he called, and that's one hop. And then the second hop is what the people he called in turn. And then a third hop, to whom all those people also called.”
“Mathematically, this involves a huge number of people, especially when you get out to the third hop,” she continued. “And Chris Inglis, the deputy director of NSA, finally admitted last week that they were actually collecting sometimes out to the third hop… I knew from my briefing it was way out to the third hop, so I know they are collecting even phone content out to the third hop, at least sometimes, and he admitted it.”
In the past, the NSA had only admitted to going as far as the ‘second hop’ in terms of the scope of its data collection. But based on Roark’s previous knowledge (dating back nearly a decade) and the recent admissions from the NSA, it looks as though someone, somewhere along the line has been lying.
“That's my real problem, is that they have already proven themselves to be liars, and so they have already been caught in these lies, and they say, ‘No, we are not doing that.’ ‘Well, okay, we are doing that, but we aren't doing the really bad stuff,’” Glenn said. “Why should I believe you? You have absolutely no credibility.”
“I absolutely agree with you. I don't understand why the Committee goes only to those people who are defending their own record and doesn't call in any of the critics, any of the other people. I just don't understand it. And they don't ask tough questions, even the House Judiciary Committee asked tough questions last week,” Roark concluded. “The House and Senate Intelligence Committees have been in the forefront of defending this. They have defended it far more than President Obama has.”
More from the interview below: