President Barack Obama should “stop apologizing” for the National Security Agency’s telephone-surveillance program that has “saved thousands of lives,” according to Republican U.S. Representative Peter King.
Disclosures of the extent of the NSA phone-monitoring have upset politicians from Brasilia to Berlin. European Union leaders said last week they would seek a trans-Atlantic accord on espionage after Der Spiegel magazine reported the NSA targeted German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone and Le Monde newspaper said the agency collected telecommunications data in France.
“The president should stop apologizing, stop being defensive,” King, a lawmaker from New York, said yesterday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “The reality is the NSA has saved thousands of lives -- not just in the United States but also in France and Germany and throughout Europe.”
The NSA program gathers “valuable intelligence which helps not just us but also helps the Europeans,” King said.
The NSA operations have also prompted some Europeans to call for a suspension of talks for a free-trade zone between the European Union and the U.S., while German Chancellor Merkel, whose country is export-oriented, has rejected those calls.
Obama apologized to Merkel in a telephone exchange Oct. 23 and said that he would have stopped the alleged spying had he known about it, Spiegel magazine reported, citing unidentified chancellery officials.
Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, Republican Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said “the bigger news story” would be “if the United States intelligence services weren’t trying to collect information that would protect U.S. interests both home and abroad.”
“We should collect information that’s helpful to the United States’ interests,” Rogers said.
The Michigan lawmaker also said that recent friction with Saudi Arabia “has been developing over the last two years.” He cited what he said was a U.S. decision two years ago to stay away from the Syrian conflict and the recent “quick rush to the sweet talk” from Iran on that country’s nuclear program.
“Those are critical issues to the Saudis, to the Qataris, to the Jordanians, to others in the Arab League that I think rattled their faith in the administration’s ability to protect them in a very dangerous world,” Rogers said.
Saudi Arabia refused to accept the membership of the United Nations Security Council it won earlier this month, citing issues including Syria’s civil war that it said show the world body is incapable of resolving conflicts.
The council’s “style, working mechanisms and double standards” prevent it from ending the turmoil in Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement on the state-run Saudi Press Agency. The body has also failed to rid the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear arms programs, it said.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney also was critical of Democrat Obama’s policies, saying the Middle East no longer has confidence in the U.S., whereas its presence in the region was “enormously important” for decades.
“If we’re not heavily involved there, if we’ve turned our back on the region, if we’ve had a president who believes we overreacted to the terrorism attacks on 9/11, I think the Saudis, the Emirates, the Egyptians, many in that part of the world no longer have confidence in the United States,” Cheney said on the television program.
U.S. presence, capability and influence “has been significantly diminished” as the nation has withdrawn from the region and cut the number of forces there, Cheney said. “Our friends no longer count on us, no longer trust us, and our adversaries don’t fear us. That was sort of the cornerstone and the basis of the U.S. ability and influence.”
Cheney said he didn’t have a lot of confidence in the ability of the Obama administration to negotiate an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, a skepticism he said is shared by officials in the Middle East.
“They’re very fearful that the whole Iranian exercise is going to go the same way as the Syrian exercise, that is, that there will be bold talk from the administration,” Cheney said. “But in the final analysis, nothing effective will be done about the Iranian program.”
In response to a question on whether military action against Iran was inevitable, Cheney said “I have trouble seeing how we’re going to achieve our objective short of that.”