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Chambliss: Terrorist Surveillance Program is Essential to National Security

Location: Washington, DC


U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., today released the following statement regarding the White House Terrorist Surveillance Program.

"The President has described certain activities of the National Security Agency that he authorized in the weeks following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on our nation.

"As described by the President, the terrorist surveillance program at NSA targets very specific communications of suspected al Qaeda operatives in a foreign country who are communicating with their associates, most of whom reside outside the U.S. and occasionally inside the U.S. These are not ordinary Americans. These are terrorists—people who are intent on killing you and me and all other Americans.

"The world changed on September 11, 2001, demonstrating that it's vitally important that the President of the United States has the power and authority to protect the American people from future acts of terrorism, and both the Constitution and Congress grant the president that authority. Unfortunately, as a result of the unauthorized public disclosure of this highly classified program, our enemies have learned information they should not have, our national security has been damaged, and Americans have been put at risk.

"As a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I cannot discuss what goes on in the classified arena; however, I am aware that the Congressional leadership from both parties has been kept informed about the program from the start. This program is carefully reviewed approximately every 45 days to ensure it is being used properly. Additionally, the activities conducted within this program are thoroughly reviewed by lawyers within the National Security Agency and Department of Justice, and their oversight includes ensuring an aggressive training program to verify that all activities are consistent with the preservation of civil liberties.

"We know too well that terrorists are able to sneak into a country and hide among law-abiding citizens. Too often, we have witnessed the horror they cause in places such as Iraq, Tel Aviv, Madrid, London, and unfortunately, here in the United States.

"As the 9/11 Commission pointed out, two of the terrorist hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon, Nawaf al Hamzi and Khalid al Mihdhar, were communicating—by telephone - with other members of al Qaeda overseas while they were in the United States preparing for their deadly attack. Regrettably, we did not know this until it was too late. General Hayden, the former Director of the National Security Agency and the current Deputy Director of National Intelligence, indicated that, had this program been in place before 9/11, those terrorists would have been detected and identified.

"It is abundantly clear that this is an important program necessary to address the previous flaws in our early warning system that allowed at least two of those murderers to live among us. This vital program makes it more likely that terrorists will be identified and located in time to prevent another disaster."

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