The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Latest News

June 30, 2013

Pols: Balance protection, privacy

— Ever since details about a top-secret National Security Agency mass surveillance program were leaked last month, politicians have been re-examining what they knew – or thought they knew – concerning the federal government’s domestic information-gathering practices.

One local U.S. House of Representatives member said he was not informed at all about the project.

“I was never fully briefed on it,” said Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, from the 12th district. “I was never briefed on it, period.”

Rothfus took office in January.

Two other elected officials with more time in Washington, D.C. – former Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johnstown, and Sen. Bob Casey, both Democrats, said they knew about the surveillance, but not its full scope.

“I’d say there was a good bit of general knowledge, but in the last few days and weeks, I’ve learned some things I didn’t know,” Casey said. “It’s a reminder we have to remain vigilant. ... I think we’re just beginning to learn some of the details about how the information is gathered and where it lands and how it’s used.”

Critz, who represented the 12th district from May 2010 until this January, and Rothfus expressed concerns about the size of the surveillance.

“I always was a little queasy about how much leeway is given to agencies and what they can and can’t collect,” said Critz, a former member of the  House Armed Services Committee. “They are given such a breadth to collect the information they did.”

Rothfus stated: “I am very troubled with there being some super database.”

Those three and a spokesperson for Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, discussed the need to balance protection and privacy going forward.

Toomey’s staff member said privacy is a major concern for the senator and cited his support of an amendment that would have required the director of national intelligence to submit a report about the impact of surveillance on American citizens.

“There are multiple facets to this,” Critz said. “Since 9/11 and the Patriot Act, there is far more surveillance of U.S. citizens than there has ever been. That’s a subject where we walk a fine line because we value our freedom. ... It brings to light what is enough and what is too much. That’s something us citizens, working through elected officials, need to decide.”

Casey added, “It’s reminding us of the delicate balance we have to strike.”

Edward Snowden, a former system administrator with Booz Allen Hamilton, publicly revealed classified information concerning the collection of telephone, Internet and email metadata as part of the PRISM program. His position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted him access to NSA information. Snowden has been charged with three felonies, including two under the Espionage Act.

Toomey strongly opposes the leaks. Critz called for Snowden to be dealt with “expeditiously.”

Government agencies said the information was used only to find terrorists and not to spy on American citizens.

“They have a great understanding of what the legal limits are,” Casey said.

The area’s other congressman, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, from the 9th district, was not available for comment.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
  • 5 things to know for today in Pennsylvania news

    A look at late-breaking news, coming events and stories that will be talked about in Pennsylvania on Monday:

    April 21, 2014

  • Flower2 Flowers' color doesn't have to fade

    Those pots of bright yellow daffodils, Easter lilies and hyacinths gracing the home this weekend do not have to end up in the trash bin when the blooms start to fade.

    April 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • Refinancing could lower Richland School District's debt by $2.2M

    When Richland School District borrowed funds for its high school project a decade ago, board members circled “2014” on their calendars as a likely first option to refinance the debt.

    April 20, 2014

  • Pipeline to carry shale byproducts

    An 8-inch transmission line crossing Pennsylvania, including four municipalities in Cambria County, is being repurposed to carry some of the by-products from Marcellus and Utica shale production.

    April 20, 2014

  • Judge Creany, Timothy Vets courts gain support

    Signs of success are mostly anecdotal in Pennsylvania’s special courts for veterans, but judicial officials and lawmakers are so convinced of the program, they’re lobbying to expand it.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • pow21 Person of the Week: ‘I wanted to help’: Teen uses birthday to show love for children, animals

    Anastasia Machik’s love for children and animals inspired her to forgo her birthday gifts for the sake of the two.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Students taking steps to call attention to child abuse

    An upcoming community walk will help raise awareness of child abuse.

    April 20, 2014

  • In brief: PennDOT reports weekly work schedule

    April 20, 2014

  • Halfway house inmates can ease back into society

    Prison life can be a time warp.
    When inmates are locked away – for months, years, decades – society moves forward: Technology evolves, major events occur, pop culture changes. From a personal perspective, families and friends live their lives: weddings, funerals, graduations, births, retirements. All the while, criminals bide their time, existing in a regimented world of cement walls and metal bars.
    Almost all of them eventually rejoin society, though.

    April 19, 2014

  • Crime board took aim at house

    Johnstown’s unemployment rate is around 8 percent.
    One-third of the city’s population lives in poverty.
    Burglaries and assaults significantly increased between 2010 and 2012. There is a thriving illegal trade in heroin and prescription drugs.
    Given those conditions, it can be challenging for Johnstown Community Corrections Center residents to find jobs when living in the facility or to avoid falling back into a criminal lifestyle upon their release.

    April 19, 2014

Poll

Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads