The Battle for the Future of the N.S.A.

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During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in March 2013, Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon  , had a heated exchange with James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence for the National Security Agency (N.S.A.) 

"I wanted to see if you could give me a yes or no answer to the question: Does the N.S.A. collect any data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" Senator Wyden asked.

"No sir," General Clapper replied.

Wyden: "It does not?" 

Clapper: "Not wittingly. There are cases where it could collect but not wittingly.”

Less than three months later, Edward Snowden's leaks proved Clapper's statement completely false. In July, Clapper finally apologized to the Senate Intelligence Committee for his "erroneous" statement.

Snowden's revelations have set of a fierce debate over national security and personal privacy, and the debate has become particularly intense for the Senate Intelligence Committee itself. Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent for The New Yorker, discusses the past, present and possible future of the N.S.A. in his piece that appears in the latest issue of the magazine.