The topic of surveillance by the National Security Agency has arisen in, of all places, a House Republican primary in Kansas. Incumbent Mike Pompeo faced criticism from his challenger, former congressman Todd Tiahrt, over Pompeo's support for NSA surveillance programs. In a recent debate, Tiahrt accused Pompeo of "taking money from lobbyists and supporting the violation of the Fourth Amendment," while Pompeo replied that Tiahrt was misleading people about a program that keeps Americans safe.
A group of foreign policy experts have penned an open letter to both candidates regarding the NSA's surveillance program. Read it below:
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.
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,
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)
Editor, The Weekly Standard and Board Member, Foreign Policy Initiative
diGenova & Toensing Former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia
diGenova & Toensing
Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Chief Counsel, Senate Intelligence Committee
Former CIA Officer and former Professional Staff Member, House Intelligence Committee