WASHINGTON The entire House of Representatives has gotten a briefing from intelligence officials as part of an effort to calm outrage over National Security Agency programs that collect Americans' phone and Internet records.
The officials have been making the case that the information-gathering is necessary to protect Americans - and does not trample on their privacy rights.
Several key lawmakers have tried to refocus the furor on the 29-year-old former intelligence contractor who is claiming responsibility for revealing the programs. House Speaker John Boehner joined others in calling Edward Snowden a "traitor."
But attempts to defend the NSA systems by a leading Republican senator who supports them is highlighting how confusingly intricate they are.
Sen. Lindsey Graham described how the NSA uses pattern analysis of millions of phone calls from the United States, even if those numbers have no known connection to terrorism. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has vigorously maintained that there are strict limits on the programs to prevent intruding on Americans' privacy, and senior officials quickly denied Graham's description.
Meanwhile, the ACLU American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit today, calling for the Obama administration to end the phone surveillance and purge the records it has collected.