By Tom Brune
Before President Barack Obama's press conference Friday was over, Rep. Pete King had sent out an email blasting the president for "a monumental failure" in leadership for offering four reforms to the National Security Agency's surveillance and data collection programs.
"It is difficult to imagine past war leaders such as Franklin Roosevelt or Winston Churchill willingly surrendering signals intelligence tools that are needed to fight our enemies," King said in the email, in which he identified himself as a member of the House Homeland Security and Intelligence committees - not a presidential hopeful.
After Obama's press conference ended, King went on CNN to repeat his outrage, suggesting Obama was bullied into seeking reforms by Edward Snowden, the CIA contractor who leaked the existence of an NSA program that for the past seven years has collected all Americans' phone records and an Internet data collection program.
"The president has been a good leader on this program," King said, but "now he seems to be in retreat." He added, "He should be aggressively defending it... not setting up a task force..."
And perhaps his best line: "I wish he showed the same outrage toward Edward Snowden than he did against Republicans on Obamacare."
Obama was asked if Snowden was a patriot for releasing information that led to reforms. "No, I don't think Mr. Snowden was a patriot," Obama said. "The fact is, Mr. Snowden has been charged with three felonies."
During the more than hour long news conference, Obama repeatedly defended the NSA programs as legal and transparent, and said the data collection and surveillance had been done with "restraint."
"I don't have an interest and the people in the NSA don't have an interest in doing anything other than making sure we can prevent a terrorist attack," Obama said in defense of the programs. "I am comfortable that the programs are not being abused."
But he said he was open to reforms to reassure the American people. Obama offered four reforms: work with Congress to tighten Section 215 of the Patriot Act to ensure there can be no abuse; add a civil liberties advocate to proceedings before the secret court that approves the surveillance and data collection programs; make as much public as possible about the NSA programs, and convene an outside task force to review how the NSA programs operate.
Here is King's emailed statement:
Congressman Peter King, Chairman, Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterintelligence & Terrorism, Member of Select Committee on Intelligence, Issued The Following Statement:
"The President's announcement today that he will pursue "reforms" to National Security Agency counterterrorism programs is a monumental failure in presidential wartime leadership and responsibility. These programs are legal, transparent and contain the appropriate checks and balances among the executive, legislative and judicial branches of our government. These intelligence tools keep Americans safe every single day.
Americais at war with Islamist terror groups that kill and maim innocent civilians. The current threat to the Homeland is just as high as it was before 9/11. It is difficult to imagine past war leaders such as Franklin Roosevelt or Winston Churchill willingly surrendering signals intelligence tools that are needed to fight our enemies. We need a president who defends our intelligence programs, explains them appropriately to the American people, and uses every legal capability in his arsenal to defeat al Qaeda."