Concerns about illegal spying by a federal government that seems unable to do anything about illegal immigration frustrated many in a feisty crowd of more than 450 people who met Tuesday evening with U.S. Rep. James Lankford.
Dax Ewbank, of Oklahoma City, told Lankford he is concerned that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI are using Americans' phone and Internet data that the National Security Agency has been collecting.
“It needs to end now,” he said, as many in the group applauded during a town hall meeting at the Rockwell campus of the Francis Tuttle Technology Center, 12777 N Rockwell Ave.
“The government is collecting information, pre-emptive of a crime, and then leaking it to law enforcement,” he said.
Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, said he has attended classified briefings with NSA officials who deny the phone and Internet information they have is being used against Americans.
Lankford represents residents in Oklahoma, Seminole and Pottawatomie counties in the 5th Congressional District.
Lankford said he was told the NSA is storing the phone numbers to protect the country against foreign threats and requires a court order to access the numbers to see if they are connected to foreign threats. But, still, Lankford said he is curious why the federal government is collecting the information; the phone companies have the data and the federal government could get the information from them. He also is concerned no citizen advocate is involved in the process, which could lead to abuses of individual privacy, he said.
But he said the agency has used similar data to break up 54 terrorist plots in the past years from overseas threats.
Failure of the NSA to have the information could lead to a terrorist attack that could kill Americans, he said.
“That is a reality and we know it,” Lankford said.
“I'll take my chances,” a woman yelled.
Lankford kept the meeting orderly, reading questions submitted in writing from those in attendance.
A few people shouted out questions or comments, but the congressman for the most part didn't acknowledge them.
Alex Haley, of Oklahoma City, said she is worried about the thousands of illegal immigrants entering America yearly and the lack of action by the federal government.
“We're invaded,” she said.
She said illegal immigrants, most of whom are entering through Mexico, are taking jobs away from American citizens.
“They're ruining our economic system and demanding to stay and be made citizens,” Haley said. “Nothing against these people personally, but they're strangling our economy.”
Lankford said the country's immigration policies haven't been enforced in decades, with Republicans and Democrats both to blame.
He assured the crowd that the House of Representatives won't approve the Senate's sweeping immigration measure.
Lankford said the House is more concerned about security issues involving immigration.
“We've got to find out who's actually here,” he said.
He said more emphasis should be placed on how immigrants can help the country's economy than on family ties to attain citizenship. But he cautioned against demonizing illegal immigrants.
“Every person has values,” Lankford said.
They're ruining our economic system and demanding to stay and be made citizens. Nothing against these people personally, but they're strangling our economy.”