Tolbert: Asa Hutchinson Comments On NSA Program

by Jason Tolbert ( 3 views 

I spoke with Asa Hutchinson this week for my column in Stephens Media today.

As the former Under Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, he had some interesting comments on the recent revelation on the NSA PRISM program….

“While I am sensitive to the national security mission of both NSA and the FISA court, I am concerned that the data collection is overbroad as it pertains to U.S. citizens. It is difficult to understand how the production of all call data for Verizon customers — including all calls between customers located within the U.S. — is justified considering the very narrow mission of NSA to target foreign terrorist activity,” Hutchinson said of the PRISM program.

“If the U.S. data is essential in a terrorism investigation, then there are more traditional means of gathering the information that affords U.S. citizens the civil liberty protections under the U.S. Constitution. I know that the view of most counter-terrorism analysts is that more data is better than less data, but that is the reason we must have the systems in place to prevent the massive accumulation of citizen data without particularized need and specific suspicion,” he said.

“Our citizens should always be concerned when the government accumulates private data. While the commercial world has access to much of this data, it is a different issue when the government collects the information on its citizens,” Hutchinson said. “While it is necessary in some instances, it should always have a good check and balance that is sufficiently transparent to assure the citizens that the Constitution is being followed.”

Of course, Hutchinson is seeking the Republican nomination for Arkansas Governor, but he carries quite a bit of weight on issues of national security. He was President George W. Bush’s pick to head up the Border and Transportation Security Directorate, the largest group within the newly created Department of Homeland Security.  He served in this capacity until 2005.