WASHINGTON — Two senior Republican lawmakers said Thursday that terrorists already are changing their behavior after leaks about classified U.S. data gathering programs, but they offered no details.
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said it's part of the damage from disclosures by National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden of two NSA programs, which collect millions of telephone records and track foreign Internet activity on U.S. networks. Snowden fled to Hong Kong in May and has granted some interviews since then, saying he hopes to stay there and fight any charges that may yet be filed against him.
Rogers said there are "changes we can already see being made by the folks who wish to do us harm, and our allies harm" and that the revelations might also "make it harder to track bad guys trying to harm U.S. citizens in the United States."
Later Thursday, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, used similar language in criticizing Snowden.
"His disclosures are ultimately going to lead to us being less safe in America because bad guys will be able to figure out a way around some of the methods we use, and it's likely to cost lives down the road," Chambliss said.
Rogers and Chambliss spoke after closed briefings with top administration officials.
The ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, said he's concerned that Snowden fled to Hong Kong, a part of China, "a country that's cyber-attacking us every single day."
"It seems unusual that he would be in China and asking for the protection of the Chinese government … but we're going to investigate," Ruppersberger said.
The NSA's director, Gen. Keith Alexander, who was part of the closed briefings to Senate and House members, said he hopes to declassify details of dozens of attacks disrupted by the programs. Alexander said officials don't want to "cause another terror attack by giving out too much information."
FBI Director Robert Mueller defended the programs in testimony to Congress on Thursday.
He called attention to the run-up to the 2001 terrorist attacks, saying that if the controversial surveillance efforts had been in place back then, they might have uncovered the hijackers' plot.