Sen. Jon Kyl on Friday defended the use of domestic eavesdropping to monitor communications from suspected terrorists but said Congress should find ways to increase oversight without jeopardizing the effectiveness of the controversial program.
Kyl, R-Ariz., said the electronic surveillance program launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks does not violate the Constitution or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. But, Congress should explore ways to provide better oversight of the program without revealing information that would be helpful to terrorists, said Kyl, who is up for re-election this year.
That is tough, in part because Congress is notorious for leaking classified information, he said at a meeting with the Tribune editorial board.
“My own hope is that we find a bipartisan way to ensure that there is good oversight over activities that can’t easily be dealt with prospectively,” Kyl said.
President Bush has launched an aggressive defense of his decision to allow the National Security Agency to, without a warrant, monitor communications from suspected terrorists overseas to people in the United States.
Applying the same search warrant standards used in a criminal investigation to counterterrorism activities is not feasible, Kyl said.
“If you can’t use these kinds of interception techniques for intelligence purposes, if you have to apply law enforcement techniques to it, then you are going to lose the biggest tool you have against terrorism, which is intelligence,” said Kyl, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will hold hearings on the program.
Jim Pederson, the Democrat challenging Kyl, said a law can be crafted that will protect citizens’ privacy without jeopardizing efforts to monitor terrorists.
“Balancing it out, we have to weigh in on the side of security,” Pederson said. “But we have to be mindful of privacy rights.”