QUESTION TIME: Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, questioned the director of the NSA at a Senate hearing Wednesday.
QUESTION TIME: Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, questioned the director of the NSA at a Senate hearing Wednesday.

By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

With the controversy over surveillance programs conducted by the federal government raging, the chief of theNational Security Agency appeared in front of the U.S. Senate’s Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall turned in the sound bite of the hearing when addressing Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the NSA, who defended the surveillance tactics, saying they help protect Americans.

“It’s very, very difficult I think to have a transparent debate about secret programs approved by a secret court issuing secret court orders based on secret interpretations of the law,” said Udall, a Democrat.

Udall was among a number of Democrats and Republicans on the committee who asked Alexander about the programs leaked by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor who’s in hiding in Hong Kong.

“The issue is, to date, we haven’t been able to explain it because it’s classified,” Alexander said in response to a question from Udall. “So that issue is something we’ve been wrestling with. How do we explain this and still keep this nation secure? That’s the issue we have in front of us.”

Alexander said he’s in favor of providing more transparency so the public can learn more about the programs. “This is not us doing something under the covers,” he said.

Here’s the exchange Udall had with Alexander:

Udall later said on his Twitter account he’s asking for an investigation into questions about phone records.

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