During Congressional testimony today (03/20/17), Adm. Michael S. Rogers was asked (among other things) if US citizens were required to report all contacts with foreign nationals and if failure to report such a contact could result in a counter-intelligence investigation. That seems like an obvious question, but he answered that he didn't know because he was not familiar with the law on that question.
If this were a question about US officials and foreign nationals or US officers and foreign nationals or US citizens and agents of foreign governments, then the lack of familiarity with the law would seem like a reasonable justification for not answering. But the question was about US citizens interactions with foreign nationals. That is such an incredibly broad category. It encompasses any interaction of any US citizen with any foreign national. Your cab driver had a strong accent? Yep, that's within the category of that question. So is every interaction with every customer support call if it's manned in India. Or any interaction with any bank teller, flower or food delivery person who seems to have an accent. They are all possibly foreign nationals and all fall within the category of such a question.
How could he answer that he "didn't know"? How could the answer to that specific question be anything but a resounding "no, obviously not"? Would it even be legal to impose such a requirement on all US citizens? Is there any country in the world other than North Korea which has such a requirement on its citizens?
Having said that, he could have been trying to answer the broader question (which did entail asking about whether interactions between US officials and foreign agents have to be reported). But he answered 2-3 questions asked together with 1 answer. It seems like the answers should have been separate because the answer to this one specific question (out of all the ones asked) should have been very different from all the others.
I guess my question is whether he had to err on being as elucidating as possible when testifying before Congress and providing as much information as he was able to? Or should he have erred on the side off not making statements if there was any chance of them being too broad? Is not answering questions which are very narrow-tailored, by claiming that they are too general, tantamount to refusing to answer the questions?
Did he, as the head of the NSA, not just imply that it may be possible to legally require all US citizens to report to the government any and all interactions with foreign nationals?
I am not looking for snide shots of the "nsa is wiretapping all phone calls, anyway, so why do you care"-kind. I am trying to understand if there is really any legal possibility of US going down this path of xenophobia because of Russia. I don't mean culturally. I mean legally. Is there anything to legally preclude it from happening? And wouldn't the NSA director have to know something like this?