Beltway Confidential

Peter King: NSA spy programs 'highly constitutional'

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Beltway Confidential,National Security,NSA,Ashe Schow,Edward Snowden,Analysis,Constitutionality,Peter King

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., denounced critics of the National Security Agency's spy programs by declaring the programs “highly constitutional.”

King, speaking with Fox News host Martha MacCallum, defended the NSA programs and attacked Edward Snowden, the man who leaked the fact that the programs were collecting Americans' phone records.

“First of all, I believe that Edward Snowden is a traitor,” King said. “He should not be given any amnesty whatsoever; he’s put American lives at risk.”

King then rebuffed Richard Leon, U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia, who ruled the NSA programs “likely unconstitutional” on Monday.

“The NSA program, I believe, is highly constitutional and it has saved lives over the years,” King said. “What Edward Snowden has done is alerted our enemies to the tactics we have, the abilities we have, and as a result of that, the enemy has accommodated itself and they have now adjusted in many ways and that’s going to hurt American lives.”

King further stated that the NSA is “fully complying with the law” and that individuals like Snowden don’t have the right to expose intelligence matters they don't agree with.

“I do not believe you have the right in a situation like this, for instance, that prior to D-Day, if somebody in the Department of War thought that the D-Day invasion was wrong. They didn’t have the right to go to the Germans,” King said.

King then emphasized that “not one American, not one American has had his right violated by the NSA, but they have saved many, many lives.”

As an example for how the NSA programs have helped thwart terrorist attacks, King named the 2009 plot to blow up the New York City subway.

“And certainly to me, the 2009 subway plot in New York is a dramatic example of the NSA playing a very, very key role in providing information that gave much more information to that plot and stopped it from being successful and saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives,” King said.

The NSA may have helped thwart that attack, but the spy program that has come under scrutiny due to Snowden's leak “played little to no role” in such plots, according to Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mark Udall, D-Colo. Other NSA programs did most of the work.

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander admitted in October that only one or two of the 50-plus terror plots stopped by U.S. intelligence were stopped because of the NSA data collection program. He did not name which two.

King then fell back on NSA supporters’ claim that having two phone numbers is not a cause for concern.

“The NSA does not know who is talking to whom. They know two phone numbers,” Kings said. “They don’t have the names, they don’t have the addresses, they don’t have the contents of the calls.”

King also claimed that the mass data collection was necessary because the numbers wouldn’t exist after an attack was carried out. Of course, unless the intelligence committee knew that an attack was happening and had an idea of who was involved, they wouldn’t know what numbers to look up. And if they already had the lead, they could get a warrant for that person and wouldn’t need every American’s records.

King then condescendingly blamed detractors for misrepresenting the NSA programs and the American people for being misinformed.

“They actually believe the NSA is listening to phone calls when they’re not,” King said. “They actually believe they’re listening to emails, but they’re not.”

Yes, he actually said “listening to emails.”

Somehow, King’s assertion that no American’s rights have been violated doesn’t seem very soothing.

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