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National Counterterror Director Says Complaints Over Spying Declining Since Ft. Hood

Photo Courtesy - NCTC(WASHINGTON) -- The director of the National Counterterrorism Center expressed frustration Wednesday with critics of domestic spying and said that after recent violent incidents questions about government intrusiveness had turned into complaints that the government wasn't doing enough spying.

"In the months before Ft. Hood I was advocating for the extension of some aspects of the Patriot Act, and I think for very good reasons people have some concerns," said NCTC Director Michael Leiter. "I got a lot of, 'Why should we allow you to keep spying on Americans?"' Leiter was referring to the November 2009 attack at Fort Hood in Texas, which killed 13 people.

"Several weeks later in the wake of Ft. Hood," said Leiter, "I was back on [Capitol] Hill. I tell you a whole lot of fewer people were complaining about me spying on Americans and a whole lot more people were complaining that I wasn't spying enough. It's a tough line to walk." Leiter also said attitudes about terror watch lists had changed after alleged "underwear bomber" Umar Abdulmutallab, who was not placed on a watch list, was allowed to board Northwest flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit last Christmas. Abdulmutallab is charged with attempting to detonate a bomb on the plane.

Leiter and other top U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials discussed the balance between security and civil liberties at a conference Wednesday hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said he didn't believe there was "an inherent tension between protecting national security and preserving civil liberties....Yes, we have a right to privacy. But we also have a right to ride the subways without the threat of bombings. It is not a question of conflict; it is a question of balance."

Mueller said wiretap laws and phone and Internet providers have not kept pace with rapidly evolving technology, and that the government needs to improve the ability of law enforcement to monitor terrorist and criminal groups.

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