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
  • Screen shot 2014-04-18 at 4.44.15 PM.png Paint, doodle and sketch: 3 apps for art lovers

    In the absence of a palette of watercolors and a sketchpad, these three apps can fill in as your art supplies of choice.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Do White Castle prices tell us anything about the minimum wage?

    The paper looked at how many delicious steamed sliders the minimum wage has been able to purchase over time. The point is that as it notes, in 1981, the $3.35 minimum could buy a whole dozen. Today, at $7.25, it could purchase just 10.

    April 24, 2014

  • Cats outsmart the researchers

    I knew a lot had been written about dogs, and I assumed there must be at least a handful of studies on cats. But after weeks of scouring the scientific world for someone - anyone - who studied how cats think, all I was left with was this statement, laughed over the phone to me by one of the world's top animal cognition experts, a Hungarian scientist named Ádám Miklósi.

    April 24, 2014

  • GarageA25.JPG Garage collapses in Oakland following Weds. night accident

    No one was hurt when a garage collapsed Thursday afternoon in the Oakland section of Stonycreek Township.

    April 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • Do your genes make you procrastinate?

    Procrastinators, in my experience, like nothing better than explaining away their procrastination: General busyness, fear of failure, and simple laziness are just a handful of the excuses and theories often tossed around. Now researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have added another option to the list: genetics.

    April 24, 2014

  • The top 12 government programs ever

    Which federal programs and policies succeed in being cost-effective and targeting those who need them most? These two tests are obvious: After all, why would we spend taxpayers' money on a program that isn't worth what it costs or helps those who do not need help?

    April 24, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 4.42.47 PM.png VIDEO | Leopard attacks crowd in India

    A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • In cuffs... 'Warlock' in West Virginia accused of sexual assault

    Police in West Virginia say a man claiming to be a “warlock” used promises of magical spells to lure children into committing sexual acts with him.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • VIDEO: Moose charges snowmobile, flees after warning shot

    While snowmobiling in New England, Bob and Janis Powell of Maine were charged by a moose and caught the entire attack on camera.

    April 24, 2014

  • 10 things to know for today

    Your look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:

    April 24, 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