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John Ashcroft Discusses Spying on Foreign Leaders

WASHINGTON, DC -- A former U.S. Attorney General, who served when the Patriot Act was first put in place, is speaking about the current flap over U.S. spying on foreign leaders.
WASHINGTON, DC -- A former U.S. Attorney General, who served when the Patriot Act was first put in place, is speaking about the current flap over U.S. spying on foreign leaders.

The head of the National Security Agency denied Tuesday that the United States collected telephone and e-mail records directly from European citizens, calling reports based on leaks by Edward Snowden "completely false."

The statement by Army Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director before the House Intelligence Committee came as a number of lawmakers called for changes to the way intelligence is collected.

The hearing, billed as a discussion of potential changes to the 35-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, commonly known as FISA, follows a report by the German magazine Der Spiegel that the NSA monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone. Some reports also suggest the United States carried out surveillance on French and Spanish citizens.

It was the latest in a series of allegations that stem from disclosures given to news organizations by Snowden, the former NSA contractor who describes himself as a whistle-blower.

KOLR10 News Wednesday asked former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft about the latest NSA leaks.  He says the President is ultimately responsible for proper surveillance of foreign leaders

"If he feels like he has to have the information he has to understand that there are risks to it and if you are collecting information for purposes of improving relationships but its found out you're done it in a way to make relationships deteriorate, you're working cross-purposed."

Ashcroft added that the President is protected by 2 duties in the Constitution when it comes to intelligence operations.

The allegations have rocked U.S.-European relations with a number of countries calling for investigations. Germany has threatened to cut off the ability of the United States to track bank transfers associated with terror groups.

As the nation's spy chiefs testified, two ranking lawmakers from opposing parties introduced bills that call for greater transparency and oversight of the NSA's surveillance programs.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, introduced legislation to limit the NSA's collection and analysis of cell phone calls and emails.

It was an about-face for the two men, who were the leading authors of the Patriot Act in the wake of the September 11 attacks.


(CNN contributed information for this report)


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