The ex-NSA chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency, retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, said the government’s surveillance programs “have made our government less secure and less trustworthy.”
Petraeus told the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday that the government should not be spying on American citizens.
“We need to have more privacy,” Petraeus said.
“The NSA’s been very clear that they’re spying on the American people.
I think that the privacy concerns that you’re raising have a lot to do with the privacy of American citizens.”
Petraeus, a former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, made his comments at a House hearing on the NSA program that he ran in 2009.
He has since been stripped of his security clearances, and his lawyer said Thursday that he would appeal his conviction on fraud charges.
The retired general testified in 2011 that the NSA has been violating Americans’ privacy for years, but he has since reversed course.
He said the agency has expanded its surveillance to collect data on all Internet communications and collected “the bulk of the metadata” on people’s phone calls and email.
The NSA’s secret court approved the surveillance program, which was first revealed in March 2013.
It was expanded in 2012 under President Barack Obama.
In response to Petraeus’ comments, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, called the NSA’s collection of Americans’ data a “grave abuse of power.”
She also noted that the program collects metadata about millions of Americans.
“If the president is saying that we’re spying indiscriminately on the public, we need to know why,” Lofquist said.
Petraeus has also argued that the bulk collection of data is necessary to protect the United States from potential terrorists, even though the government has acknowledged that it was “not” the intended purpose of the program.
The program has been controversial for years and has been criticized by some civil liberties groups, which have argued that it violates Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights.
The former general testified that he thought the bulk surveillance program was necessary because of the threat of a terrorist attack.