Transcript: Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brad Wiegmann’s testimony on the Surveillance Transparency Act – Nov. 13, 2013

Partial transcript of testimony of Brad Wiegmann, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division, on the Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013. The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law hearing was held on Nov. 13, 2013:

…Thank you for having me here today. I don’t want to replicate what Bob Litt has just explained, so I don’t want to waste the committee’s time. But we – the Department of Justice – very much agree with what Bob has just explained.

We very much support the transparency efforts that the intelligence community is engaged in now.

We also, as Bob said, share the goals of the bill that you have prepared in terms of increasing transparency. But we have some technical concerns about how those proposals can be implemented that we’re happy to discuss today.

I guess I would just say a couple of other things. One is that I think this is an area where the details very much matter. We very much support transparency but we want to do so in a way that’s consistent with our national security needs.

You’ve seen a number of documents declassified over the last several months. I’m sure from the outside it looks very slow and ad hoc as you said earlier. That’s because these documents involve a lot of detailed classified information and it takes a lot of time to go through the documents and determine what can safely be revealed and what cannot and there are a lot of equities of different components of the intelligence community that have a stake in the information in play.

So our transparency efforts are a work in progress. We continue to work on them. As we go forward, we’ll try to do so in a careful and deliberate way but I don’t doubt to the outsider it looks as if it’s slow and ad hoc but that’s because we’re trying to protect national security while also promoting transparency goals.

…The other thing I guess I would say in addition that was to contrast the U.S. response to these disclosures to those of some foreign governments. We have in response to these unauthorized disclosures tried to be more transparent and that’s not always the case with other governments that have experienced this either in the past or more recently. So I do think we’re working in good faith to try to be more open about our intelligence collection activities and we’re happy to work with the committee to promote that goal.

That’s all I have.

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