News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 19, 2013

EDITORIAL: A timely call-out of NSA critics

Sen. Coats talks sense about security leaks

The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — As if it couldn’t get worse, politicians in Washington have again tied themselves in knots.

Yes, we know. What else is new?

This time the bloviating comes courtesy of recent revelations by a National Security Agency contractor that secretive programs exist that some believe represent a serious breach of personal privacy and civil liberties.

These issues are important, of course. But it should come as no surprise that such programs are being carried out in America’s defense, security and intelligence communities. In the wake of 9/11, an uneasy consensus was reached across our country that more aggressive action was needed to protect Americans from future terrorist attacks, even if that meant giving up some of the personal freedoms to which we had become accustomed.

There is no doubt the country is more secure today than before terrorists struck the homeland on 9/11 and killed thousands of people. There is also no doubt that things have changed, drastically in some cases, to achieve that newfound security. Have you been through airport security lately?

While the fear of terrorism has eroded our sense of freedom, in some cases too much, we understand why this has happened and are not going to feign outrage just because the opportunity exists.

We’re also pleased that Indiana’s senior senator, Dan Coats, penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal this week decrying the way in which too many of his congressional colleagues have mischaracterized the revelations to “advance their personal and political agendas.”

Sen. Coats is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and is well aware of programs that are being operated by the NSA. He said they have allowed the government to thwart dozens of terrorist attacks and are being monitored to ensure they don’t go too far in abridging civil liberties. What’s more, he says those members of Congress now expressing such umbrage have known about the programs, or should have known about them, and rarely spoke out or voted against them when they had the opportunity.

“These programs are legal, constitutional and used only under the strict oversight of all three branches of the government, including a highly scrutinized judicial process,” Coats writes. “Furthermore, members of both political parties review, audit and authorize all activities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I can attest that few issues garner more of our attention than the oversight of these programs.”

In his most pointed remarks, Coats made it clear what he thinks about how this issue has become laced in partisan politics.

“Mischaracterizing national-security programs for political gain is irresponsible and has the potential to weaken the country’s defenses,” He writes. “Members of Congress must remain vigilant in the face of misleading information about the substance and utility of our counterterrorism activities.”

Amid the wailing and gnashing of partisan teeth all around the Capitol, Coats’ words need to be heard and considered.