Thursday, January 16, 2014

Pittenger: Al-Qaida is stronger than ever

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, a Republican from Charlotte, says this morning that al-Qaida remains a serious threat to America and that President Obama and Congress should do nothing to hurt the NSA's ability to gather intelligence about terrorists.

Obama is expected to unveil his proposed reforms to the controversial agency on Friday. Pittenger, who chairs a congressional task force on terrorism, says the NSA's tactics have protected America from attacks and need to remain strong.

In an op-ed for The Charlotte Observer, Pittenger makes some bold statements, including: "Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups are more organized and assertive than ever before."

He goes on to defend the NSA: "There is substantial evidence from classified documents to show the NSA has prevented over fifty worldwide attacks, including a dozen on American soil."

Pittenger warns that restraining the NSA too much could backfire. "We must recognize the dire consequences of severely limiting or ending important NSA metadata collection, which can effectively be used to track known terrorists. ... Must we face another major national tragedy to understand the priority of preserving the important advantage afforded to us by the capabilities of our security apparatuses?"

Pittenger says some reforms may be needed, but they need to be careful about balancing civil liberties with national security. The tide of public opinion is rushing strongly against the NSA's aggressive tactics, but Pittenger, for one, warns against overlooking the value of the agency's intelligence.

Pittenger's full op-ed, written with British Parliament member Lord Alex Carlile, is below:

President Obama will lay out his proposed reforms of the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs on Friday.  Despite assertions to the contrary, the war on terror is not over and it would be irresponsible to curtail America’s ability to defend itself against a capable and extremely violent enemy.   The United States Congress, with its vital oversight of our Intelligence, should play a constructive and determining role in NSA authority and process.
 
Terrorist threats, planned attacks, and warfare within unstable countries have not diminished since 9-11. On the contrary, Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups are more organized and assertive than ever before. In the last decade we have continued to see the destruction caused by terrorists throughout the west, including the Madrid train bombings, 7/7 London bombings, multiple Benghazi attacks against British and U.S. interests and the bombing of the Boston Marathon.
 
There is no basis to believe the "war on terror" is over simply because Osama bin Laden is dead. We need look no further than Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and throughout the Middle East and Africa, to see the growing and aggressive efforts of Islamic extremist terrorists. Our Arab allies and Israel join with other states in facing a common threat, which requires our vigilance and coordinated efforts to defeat those who seek to destroy us.
 
We are not fighting a street gang. Our foes are extremely capable, with sophisticated expertise and strategic planning and execution. We have succeeded in thwarting their planned attacks not least because we have had the technological advantage to intercept and trace their operations and contacts.
 
There is substantial evidence from classified documents to show the NSA has prevented over fifty worldwide attacks, including a dozen on American soil. The NSA is constrained and governed by the Constitution of the United States, which is enforced and upheld by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA court). While there are significant accountability structures already in place to protect privacy, with other reforms being considered, we must recognize the dire consequences of severely limiting or ending important NSA metadata collection, which can effectively be used to track known terrorists.
 
Today, there is a great need for leadership in support of critical security procedures.  We must maintain the ability to track Al Qaeda and their sleeper cells to avoid future national catastrophes. Continuing the false narrative of a diminished threat only increases the risk to the United States, the United Kingdom and our allies.  Must we face another major national tragedy to understand the priority of preserving the important advantage afforded to us by the capabilities of our security apparatuses? We can make modifications to provide added oversight and protection, but we cannot lose sight of the prevailing threat and our responsibility to defend our countries. Reforms must be thoughtful, and rightfully balance civil liberties versus security, but made in a way which does not endanger America, the United Kingdom and our allies.

-- Taylor Batten

5 comments:

Veronica said...

Obama has lost the war on terror.

We walked away from Iraq and left a civil war in our wake. We are about to do the same thing in Afghanistan.

Al-qaeda has regrouped and is stronger than ever and Iran marches forward toward nuclear weapons.

This is a failed presidency of epic proportions.

Bettywhite said...

I believe it was Bush who signed the treaty to vacate Iraq. The Obama Administration negotiated to keep some troops in Iraq, but the Iraqi government insisted that American troops be subject to Iraqi laws; the Obama administration refused to subject troops to Iraqi law.
The Bush invasion of Iraq allowed Al Queda to gain a foothold in a region they had never had a presence in, and the invasion destabilized the region allowing Iran to step into the void.

blockhead said...

Veronica, let me make it clear, this is not a personal insult. We're all ignorant of many things.

But your comment is just that - ignorant. Before George Bush foolishly invaded Iraq, at the cost of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, Iraq and Saddam Hussein were bitter enemies of Al-Qaeda. In fact, though Hussein was a brutal dictator (he used the poison gas he got from his friends Ronald Reagan and Donald Rumsfeld to kill the Kurds) he was a stabilizing force in the Middle East. Now, Bush's war has pushed Iraq into the camp with Iran. They previously were enemies too. Those of us who opposed Bush's war knew how it was going to end. As you say, as soon as we left, it was back to Civil War. But Obama didn't cause this any more than he caused our equally foolish excursion into Afghanistan. We apparently learned nothing from the experience of the British and Russians there, nor from our own experience in Vietnam. You're right - Iraq is a mess. But place the blame where it belongs.

Pete said...

I consider myself a liberal, but I actually agree with Pittenger here. I recently checked out the 9/11 Commission Report from the library, and it's astounding how absolutely unprepared we were in 2001 for what was coming. Since then, our national security infrastructure has grown exponentially, so much so that many of us wonder whether it's beginning to cross the line. But you need only remember back to the way things were before 9/11 to realize what a foolish danger it is to do away with too much of what we now have in place. The fact that there has not been a major terrorist attack since 9/11 is the best outcome possible. For that reason I am willing to allow the NSA to keep doing what they're doing. As long as they stop eveasdropping on our allies, and keep it to actual suspects, I'm ok with it.

bozz man said...

Hopefully Pittenger will be replaced come November, I voted for him two years ago but I've come to the conclusion that he's nothing but a RINO.The NSA has violated the 4th Amendment so many times it's unbelievable. We elect our Representatives to uphold the Constitution, and Pittenger has been a big failure.