Bush Official Defends Obama on NSA Scandal
When it comes to criticizing President Obama, Marc Thiessen can't be considered shy. The title of his best-selling book is Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama is Courting the Next Attack and sports a blurb from former Vice President Dick Cheney. Thiessen was a member of George W. Bush's senior staff and a speechwriter for both President Bush and the Secretary of Defense.
Theissen has been a passionate defender of the NSA and the programs exposed by former contractor Edward Snowden. He believes that conservative critics of the NSA need to pause and reconsider their attacks. He points out the PRISM program that's been the subject of much controversy was put into place by the Bush Administration and has been widely mis-characterized.
In an exclusive interview, he told Breitbart News "Programs like this are the only thing we have to protect us from terror. There are three ways to stop terrorists from carrying out an attack: interrogation, infiltration and interception. We've stopped interrogations. Infiltration has proven incredibly hard with these groups. So we're left with interception; using information to try and keep the worst from happening."
Theissen's assessment of the importance of PRISM is blunt: "If we lose this, we're blind."
The program's defenders have included fierce Obama critics like Theissen and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who clarified some of the misconceptions in her questioning of Deputy Director of the NSA John Inglis in a hearing on June 18th:
REP. BACHMANN: So let me just for the record state, is NSA spying today, or have you spied on American citizens?
MR. INGLIS: We do not target U.S. persons anywhere in the world without a specific court warrant.
REP. BACHMANN: And does the NSA listen to the phone calls of American citizens?
MR. INGLIS: We do not target or listen to the telephone calls of U.S. persons under that targeting without a specific court warrant.
REP. BACHMANN: Does the NSA read the emails of American citizens?
MR. INGLIS: Same answer, ma’am.
REP. BACHMANN: Does the NSA read the text messages of American citizens?
MR. INGLIS: Again, we do not target the content of U.S. person communications without a specific warrant anywhere on the earth.
REP. BACHMANN: Has the NSA ever tracked any political enemies of the administration, whether it’s a Republican administration or Democrat administration? Have either of the administrations — you said you’re a hundred-percent auditable, so you would know the answer to this question — have you ever tracked the political enemies of an administration?
MR. INGLIS: In my time at NSA, no, ma’am.
REP. BACHMANN: Does the government keep video data like Mr. Himes had just questioned? Does the government have a database with video data in it, tracking movements of the American people?
MR. INGLIS: No, ma’am….
In the wake of the IRS Scandal, there are understandable concerns about whether a program like PRISM has the potential to be misused particularly with the Obama administration in power but Theissen said that the attacks here aren't really aimed President Obama but at the NSA itself.
"The National Security Agency is a military intelligence organization; often men and women in uniform. We trust them with more than just information but with actual weapons, including nukes."
Theissen says there are procedures in place to investigate, expose and prosecute abuse and the IRS scandal shows that they provide accountability. In the case of the NSA programs, there aren't allegations of abuse.
Snowden and Greenwald aren't claiming abuse of the PRISM program but are criticizing the very existence of such a program. As Theissen says, "The problem with the IRS was the abuse, not the fact that they had tax records."
Theissen also believes conservatives should be the ones to defend the military against vague, broad attacks by the press and political class. He said, "We send the military out to protect the country and the left accuses them of atrocities at the drop of a hat. Conservatives give the military the benefit of the doubt and wait for the evidence. The people at the N.S.A. are being accused by the left once again. Conservatives ought to have a different standard."