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Conyers: U.S. On Verge Of Becoming A Surveillance State

WASHINGTON DC (WWJ/AP) - Michigan Democratic Representative John Conyers says he fears the nation may be "on the verge of becoming a surveillance state."

Conyers' comments follow growing concerns amid revelations about government surveillance of its citizens.

"We have a feeling, at least some of us, that it's not necessary, nor does it serve a legitimate legal protective service," Conyers said, adding that he believes the surveillance is  too "far-reaching."

"My considered judgement is that the Federal Bureau of Investigations' actions are inconsistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act and violate the fundamental privacy of law-abiding citizens," he said.

Conyers spoke at Thursday's  House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington D.C. as FBI Director Robert Mueller was questioned about the surveillance programs targeting millions of Americans' phone records and the Internet use of foreigners using U.S. Internet companies.

In his testimony, Mueller defended the surveillance program, saying it might have stopped the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"Before 9/11 there was an individual by the name of Khalid Almihdhar who came to be one of the principal hijackers. He was being tracked by the intelligence agencies... They lost track of him," Mueller said. "At the same time, the intelligence agencies had identified an al Qaeda safe house in Yemen. They understood that that al Qaeda safe house had a telephone number but they could not know who was calling into that particular —that particular safe house."

"If we had had this program, that opportunity would have been there," Mueller said.

"I am not persuaded that that makes it OK to collect every call," Conyers replied.

The revelation that the National Security Administration (NSA)  is collecting millions of U.S. phone records, along with digital communications stored by nine major Internet companies, has touched off a national debate over whether the government has overstepped in it's efforts to thwart terrorism. [More from CBS News].

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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