Historic National Security Agency machinery

In Kansas fourth district, national security a dividing issue

A letter composed by 14 national security experts clarifies the debate over the role of the National Security Agency, its surveillance programs, and the safety of Americans. This is an issue in the campaign for the Republican Party nomination for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas. Challenger Todd Tiahrt has criticized Mike Pompeo for supporting the NSA data-gathering programs, saying that the programs spy on Americans. Pompeo has maintained that the programs are necessary to protect Americans from terrorism and other threats, and that there is sufficient oversight to protect privacy.

I think the most important part of the letter is the final two paragraphs:

Supporting the NSA collection programs illegally compromised by Edward Snowden is politically difficult given the media frenzy that has inaccurately portrayed these programs as domestic spying. We regret that too many politicians are taking a politically expedient position on this issue by siding with the news media on NSA programs in an effort to scare voters and win their support.

Leadership often means taking politically difficult stands on controversial issues. The current debate over NSA surveillance concerns crucial national security programs designed to protect our nation. In our view, supporting these programs and working to reassure the American people about why they are needed is the only responsible position on this issue.

What’s curious — incongruous is more accurate — is how Tiahrt and his supporters have morphed into rabid civil libertarians on this issue. This letter is signed by what we can describe as a neoconservative hall of fame, John Bolton and William Kristol in particular. This group advocates a muscular American foreign policy, which also describes Tiahrt while he was in Congress. He earned the moniker “Tanker Todd,” after all, for his support of building the next generation of air refueling tankers in the United States, and Wichita in particular. Or, maybe he supported building the tankers solely on its potential as a jobs program for Wichita, which if so, is bad policy.

Either way, it’s bizarre to see Tiahrt and his supporters opposing a policy designed to protect the American homeland. The people they’re lining up with: Usually they’d insult them with terms like isolationists and peaceniks. Or worse, libertarians.

I guess it is true, that politics makes strange bedfellows.

Following is the letter and its signatories.

We are a group of foreign policy professionals who are writing to express our concern over statements about NSA surveillance made during the Republican primary for the U.S House of Representatives seat for the 4th district of Kansas.

The illegal leaks of information about NSA programs by former NSA technician Edward Snowden kicked off a divisive debate in this country on whether or not NSA surveillance programs have violated the privacy rights of American citizens.

Many of the NSA programs compromised by Snowden have been portrayed by the news media and many politicians as “spying on Americans.”

While we appreciate the concerns voiced by many Americans over NSA surveillance programs in response to the Snowden leaks, we believe it is highly inaccurate to claim that these programs violate the privacy rights of American citizens. We believe the NSA program that has been most criticized, the NSA metadata program, has been subjected to careful oversight by the courts and the congressional intelligence oversight committees. This intelligence collection program has been upheld in 36 out of 39 decisions before 19 different judges.

We regret that critics of the metadata program and other NSA collection efforts ignore how these programs have helped protect our nation against terrorist attacks. For example, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein stated during a January 14, 2014 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that the metadata program helped stop terrorist plots to bomb the New York City subway, the New York stock exchange, and a Danish newspaper.

Supporting the NSA collection programs illegally compromised by Edward Snowden is politically difficult given the media frenzy that has inaccurately portrayed these programs as domestic spying. We regret that too many politicians are taking a politically expedient position on this issue by siding with the news media on NSA programs in an effort to scare voters and win their support.

Leadership often means taking politically difficult stands on controversial issues. The current debate over NSA surveillance concerns crucial national security programs designed to protect our nation. In our view, supporting these programs and working to reassure the American people about why they are needed is the only responsible position on this issue.

Sincerely,

Hon. Michael B. Mukasey
81st Attorney General of the United States, former U.S. District Judge, Southern District of New York

Hon. Pete Hoekstra
Former Chairman, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

Lieutenant General William G. Boykin U.S. Army (Ret.)
Former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence

Admiral James A. Lyons, US Navy (Ret.) Former Commander-in-Chief,
Pacific Fleet

Andrew C. McCarthy
Former Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York

Hon. Michelle Van Cleave
Former National Counterintelligence Executive

Clare M. Lopez Former CIA Officer

Hon. John R. Bolton
Former U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

Hon. R. James Woolsey
Former Director of Central Intelligence

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
Former Assistant Secretary of Defense (Acting)

William Kristol
Editor, The Weekly Standard and Board Member, Foreign Policy Initiative

Joseph diGenova
diGenova & Toensing Former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia

Victoria Toensing
diGenova & Toensing
Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Chief Counsel, Senate Intelligence Committee

Frederick Fleitz
Former CIA Officer and former Professional Staff Member, House Intelligence Committee


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