(CBS News) There are "zero privacy violations" in the National Security Agency's collection of phone records, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said Sunday on "Face the Nation," just days after the chamber narrowly rejected a measure that would have stripped the agency of its assumed authority under the Patriot Act to collect records in bulk.
"There's more information in a phone book than there is in this particular big pile of phone numbers that we used to close the gap - we, the intelligence services - close the gap that we saw didn't allow us to catch someone from 9/11," Rogers said.
"Remember, this came about after 9/11 when we found out afterward that terrorists that we knew about overseas had called somebody who was a terrorist but living in the United States or staying in the United States," he continued. "He ended up being the person that got on an airplane and flew into the side of the Pentagon."
Rogers argued the program culls data that's merely "to-from - no names, no addresses" and is kept at bay by strict regulations that pre-require a counterterrorism nexus for snooping. He said the tight 217-205 vote on a bill that would have mandated the NSA to prove a specific individual was under investigation before collecting his or her records was driven by misunderstanding.
"The day before the vote, people were asking, 'How many of the numbers have recordings attached to them?' Well, the answer is zero. If you have to ask that the day before the vote - I knew I was in an education problem here. There are no recordings of phone calls; there are no dossiers. They do not record your e-mails. None of that was happening, none of it, zero," Rogers said.
"That's a pretty impressive record - zero privacy violations, 54 terrorist attacks that saved real American lives and our allies as well - that's real success," Rogers said, making the case that without the program, the United States could not as effectively thwart another 9/11-type attack.
Not necessarily, countered Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo, who said: "If you look at section 259 of the Patriot Act, if you define it broadly, you can collect people's medical records, financial records, credit card records - you name it - anything is on the table. ...We don't need to do this to fight an effective war against terrorism."
With Rep. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Udall introduced legislation that would require the NSA to show to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court a link between a person and a terror or espionage threat on the executive branch. Udall said the bill is "the way in which to protect not just our people, but the bill of rights. The bill of rights is the biggest, baddest weapon we have.
"...The N.S.A. Is literally collecting every phone record of every American, every day," Udall said. "And, look - the content of those phone calls is not available, but I think knowing when I call somebody from where I call somebody and for how long I call somebody is a violation of your privacy. There are apps that you can get on your smart phone or your smart tablet or your computer... that can take that phone data and give a pretty good impression of what you do during your daily activities."