Sen. Durbin calls to "narrow" information gathering by NSA

(CBS News) Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., was one of several members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to question NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander last week on the organization's use of the Patriot Act to justify the collection of Verizon's U.S. phone records.

Alexander insisted to the committee that surveillance tactics, including the collection of phone records, have prevented "dozens of terrorist events" and said he will work to declassify the figures to back up this claim this week.

Durbin spoke about the hearing and new revelations about NSA spying on Russia's president and other foreign leaders at a 2008 G-20 summit, Monday on "CBS This Morning."

"I've offered amendments...to try to narrow the gathering of information to what we need to be safe and not more," Durbin said. "What I need to know on these cases, if we had known the suspect and gone after those phone records after some suspicion, could we have come up with the same information?...Can you gather that information as needed with suspects or do you have to gather it in advance?"

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Durbin said that along with other lawmakers, he is seeking to strike a balance between security and privacy and to remove a level of secrecy from "this secrecy law so Americans have a better sense of what our [security] goals are and how to achieve them."

He added that while he and President Obama see eye-to-eye on many policy issues , he has "real concerns" about the surveillance practices of the Obama Administration, saying: "The president was in favor my measure when he was in the Senate, which would have narrowed the scope of information-gathering."

Turning to the White House stance on Syria, Durbin said President Obama "made the right decision" to commit to sending arms to aid Syrian rebels. He explained the ultimate goal in Syria "is for Assad to leave and for a stable government to follow."

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