Chambliss Suggests NSA Snooping Uncovered Terror Plot

Senator Saxbe Chambliss, a strong supporter of the NSA's surveillance programs, hinted on Meet the Press that the controversial programs were responsible for uncovering the terror plot that has caused the closings of embassies and consulates in 21 countries.

The Hill reports:

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, revealed on Sunday that the National Security Agency's controversial surveillance programs uncovered information about current terrorist threats to the United States.

"These programs are controversial, we understand that," Chambliss said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "But they are also very important… If we did not have these programs, then we simply would not be able to listen in on the bad guys."

Based on information about a possible al Qaeda plot, the State Department closed more than 20 diplomatic posts and issued a worldwide travel alert on Friday. Top administration officials met late Saturday to discuss the threat.

Chambliss, who has access to classified information as a member of the Intelligence Committee, said that the NSA learned of the plot by using its authority under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to intercept communications between suspected terrorists.

The provision gives the NSA power to obtain secret court orders forcing phone and Internet companies to turn over their users' communications. The law requires that the target of the surveillance must be "reasonably believed" to be outside of the United States.

Recent revelations about the scope of the NSA's surveillance have prompted outrage over privacy violations and calls on Capitol Hill to rein in the programs.

"So yes, these programs—even though they're controversial—this is a good indication of why they're so important," Chambliss said.

One might think that Chambliss, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, might be in a position to know how the terror plot was uncovered. No one else on the committee is confirming this information yet, so perhaps the senator is overstating the case.

Be that as it may, how effective the programs are is not how you judge them. They should be judged by whether or not they violate our liberties and right to privacy. How the surveillance programs are designed may sound wonderful, but if what Edward Snowden says is true, it's how they are employed that is the problem.

How many U.S. citizens, if any, had their information vacuumed up in order to reveal the current terror plot? Perhaps the senator would have done well to find that out before bragging about the effectiveness of the programs.

Related: Terrorists ‘Broke Operational Security’ in Talking about Plot