Deputy Attorney General James Cole defended secret domestic surveillance programs that sweep up American's phone records and target Internet communications, telling a House committee Tuesday that the initiatives are legal and have robust oversight.
"There are statutes that are passed by Congress. This is not a program that's off the books, that’s been hidden away," Cole said in testimony before the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. "This is part of what government puts together and discusses. Statutes are passed. It is overseen by three branches of our government."
In a hearing by the Republican-controlled committee titled "How Disclosed NSA Programs Protect Americans, and Why Disclosure Aids Our Adversaries," Cole addressed secret orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court. The Washington-based court, which meets behind closed doors, hears government applications for search and surveillance requests in national security investigations.