Terror Threat Shakes Up NSA Debate, Unites Some Lawmakers

Aug 5, 2013
Originally published on August 5, 2013 11:17 am

The Obama administration's weekend decision to close diplomatic posts from Central Asia through the Middle East and into North Africa has led to applause from "rattled lawmakers in both parties," The Washington Post writes.

They're praising the administration's response to what lawmakers say is some of the most serious intelligence since before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that terrorists are planning strikes — most likely in the regions where diplomatic posts were closed, but possibly elsewhere.

"The administration's call to close these embassies ... was actually a very smart call," House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said on CBS-TV's Face the Nation.

"It's a very credible threat, and it's based on intelligence," Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., said on ABC-TV's This Week. "What we have to do now is the most important issue, is protect Americans throughout the world."

As we reported Sunday, the State Department has extended the closings, through next Saturday, at 19 locations: Abu Dhabi, Amman, Cairo, Riyadh, Dhahran, Jeddah, Doha, Dubai, Kuwait, Manama, Muscat, Sanaa, Tripoli, Antanarivo, Bujumbura, Djibouti, Khartoum, Kigali and Port Louis. Posts in nine locations were to reopen Monday. They are: Dhaka, Algiers, Nouakchott, Kabul, Herat, Mazar el Sharif, Baghdad, Basrah and Erbil.

The terror threat has not only brought together some lawmakers, it has also affected the discussion about National Security Agency surveillance programs.

On Monday, NPR's Dina Temple-Raston noted that after weeks of debate on Capitol Hill about whether National Security Agency surveillance programs should be curbed — debate sparked by the secrets spilled by "NSA leaker" Edward Snowden — "the subject has changed 180 degrees" to a discussion of how effective the programs may be.

As The Hill writes, the "weekend terror threat ... has opened up a new front in the debate over the National Security Agency's (NSA) surveillance programs. A handful of lawmakers — most of them longtime national security hawks — took to the Sunday news shows to declare the NSA programs a success, and credit the controversial surveillance methods, first uncovered when former contractor Edward Snowden divulged details to The Guardian, as directly responsible for uncovering a potential terrorist attack."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.