During the hearing, Clapper raised concerns about budget cuts forced under the congressional process called sequestration. Intelligence agencies will be forced to cut each program by 7 percent during this current fiscal year, and those cuts will hamper the agencies' ability to acquire the technology needed to fight cyber attacks, he said. The cuts will also hurt national security in several other ways, he said.
Also during the hearing, Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, questioned Clapper and Mueller about intelligence agencies' surveillance of U.S. citizens inside the U.S. Pressed by Wyden, Clapper said the U.S National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency do not "wittingly" conduct surveillance on U.S. citizens inside the country.
Wyden asked Mueller if the FBI needs a court-ordered warrant, requiring law enforcement to show probable cause of a crime, or uses a less strict standard to conduct surveillance on U.S. residents. With some disagreements in U.S. courts about the appropriate standard, it depends on the circumstance, Mueller said.
The FBI will "see where the courts go," Mueller said.
"You have identified the exact reason why I am trying to get the answer," Wyden said. "There's no doubt we are going to watch what the courts do in the days ahead. The question is, what would be the rights of Americans while that is still being fleshed out?"
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.