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“We can’t go back to a pre-9/11 moment,” the NSA’s director, Gen. Keith Alexander, told the Senate Judiciary Committee, asserting that ending the bulk collection of data on phone calls would risk leaving the intelligence agencies without information that could avert a terrorist attack, reports the Washington Post.

“Do we really need to collect so much data on Americans?” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). “Just simply because you can do something, does it make sense to do it?”

“There is no other way that we know of to connect the dots,” said Alexander. “Taking the program off the table from my perspective is absolutely not the right thing to do.”

Both Leahy and the panel’s ranking Republican, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), also raised questions regarding recent revelations of other NSA surveillance activities.

After eight Internet companies, including Apple, Google and Facebook, called for surveillance reforms (Scribd), Alexander challenged tech companies to offer suggestions for new ways to conduct surveillance.

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