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:
-- Taylor Batten