By CLINT FOSTER
Heady topics of national importance were discussed at length when Mineral Wells hosted a distinguished guest on Friday morning. During a scheduled visit, U.S. Congressman Mike Conaway held a legislative update and town hall meeting in the Mineral Wells City Council chambers. Conaway opened the meeting to the public, fielded questions and discussed national issues with a large group in attendance. Local officials including Palo Pinto County Judge David Nicklas, Mineral Wells City Manager Lance Howerton and Mineral Wells Mayor Mike Allen were at the meeting as well.
Among the issues discussed were the National Security Agency and its data collection practices, the budget, Obamacare, immigration and overall government spending. Conaway – a Republican serving his fifth term representing Texas' 11th Congressional District in the House – said he believes he might have gotten more out of listening to the voters and their concerns than perhaps they got from him.
"I know I got great information from my constituents that I get to represent, which is most of what I want to try to do with these events," he said after the meeting. "[I want to] hear from them, understand what they're doing and kind of get a feel for their emotions on particular issues. I hope I was able to convey some information about the various issues we talked about... It was a great two-way exchange."
The topic most discussed, and the one people appeared to be most passionate about, was the NSA's collection of metadata and the concerns associated with the government's ability to monitor personal phone calls. Two people at the meeting plainly stated they do not trust the government anymore and these things worry them.
As a member of the Intelligence Committee, Conaway said he was not at liberty to disclose all information involving national security practices. However, he assured those in attendance that the NSA is not doing everything that has been speculated. He added that the risk of such data collection is not lost on him, but the NSA is not necessarily controlled by the "rogue administration" and there are certain things that must be done to protect America. He used the Manhattan Project – which built the atomic bomb that ended the Second World War – as an analogy.