Several Republican Senators warned against hindering the National Security Agency’s capabilities in Washington last week, and have called for strengthening the NSA in response to the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris last week.
“I hope the effect of that is that people realize… the pendulum has swung way too far after [leaker Edward Snowden],” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who was recently elected as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, regarding public opinion about the NSA’s authority following the Paris shooting. “Hopefully people realize that the NSA plays a very, very important role in keeping Americans safe, and my guess there will be less of a desire to hamstring them unnecessarily,” Corker told reporters last week.
Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who was recently named chairman of the Intelligence Committee, criticized the Obama administration for failing to rally public support of gathering intelligence, saying that Obama’s past language “does not adequately convey to the American people how severe the threat is from terrorism and that public support of what our intelligence committee does is really crucial to the long term effectiveness of our entire community.”
Senator John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said that budget cuts to agencies such as the NSA have hindered intelligence gathering. “I know that the NSA has been thwarted in their capabilities because of sequestration,” McCain said. “They have not been able to do many of the things they have wanted to do because of the impact of sequestration.”
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has been remarkably vocal in his fear of future terror attacks and criticism of the Obama administration for its performance in dealing with extremist groups. “I fear we can expect and must prepare for more attacks like this in the future,” Graham tweeted.
In a statement, Graham said that “Through a combination of poor policy choices made by the Obama Administration regarding detention and interrogation policies, and budget cuts approved by the Congress with President Obama’s support, I believe our national security infrastructure designed to prevent these types of attacks from occurring is under siege.”
The USA Freedom Act, an NSA reform bill, was rejected by the Senate last November. Many Republicans had voted against the bill fearing that reforms to the NSA, even those that ended bulk phone data collection of innocent Americans, would leave the US vulnerable to terror attacks. In the next five months, Congress is slated to reauthorize a portion of the Patriot Act that authorizes the NSA to collect the phone data of virtually all Americans without a warrant.
Senator Rand Paul, (R-KY), said that he’s in favor of the NSA but “I think the American people are not in favor of having all their phone data collected without a warrant.”