Gen. Keith Alexander, who leads the National Security Agency, deferred answering a question about the legal basis for the surveillance of American phone records until a classified briefing with the Senate Intelligence Committee, with the Justice Department’s assistance.

“On the legal standards and stuff, on this part here, I think we need to get the Department of Justice,” Alexander replied when Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., asked him to explain how data collection on all American phone calls meets the legal standards required under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and other relevant laws.

Alexander did add that he believes the legal basis should be declassified for the American people to read. “I think that makes sense, [but] I’m not the only decision maker,” he told the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I don’t want to jeopardize the security of Americans by saying, ‘Yes, we’re going to do that.’”