WASHINGTON D.C. – Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia on Sunday said the controversial National Security Agency’s surveillance program helped to detect a potential terrorist plot that lead to the shuttering of over 20 U.S. embassies around the world.
Had it not been for the government-surveillance program, the intercepts could have been missed, Chambliss, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,”
“There’s been an awful lot of chatter out there,” Chambliss said, referring to the term used for intelligence intercepts. “Very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11. We didn’t take heed on 9/11 in the way that we should, but here, I think, it’s very important that we do take the right kind of planning as we come to the close of Ramadan.”
When asked if the NSA surveillance program is giving specific information on the current plot, Chambliss said, “In fact they are.”
“These programs are controversial, we understand that, they’re very sensitive, but they’re also very important because they’re what allow us to have the ability to gather this chatter that I referred to. If we did not have these programs, then we simply wouldn’t be able to listen in on the bad guys,” Chambliss said.
Chambliss said the NSA program “has allowed us to pick up on this chatter. That’s the program that allows us to listen overseas. Not on a domestic soul, but overseas. And that’s where all the planning is taking place, we think that’s where the activities is planned for.”
“We do gather an awful lot of information, and if you could tell us who the bad guys are, I assure you, we’d limit it to gathering on just the bad guys,” he continued. “But we don’t know.”
Maryland Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said ABC’s “This Week” that the threat from “high-level people in Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula” was about a “major attack.”
Rep. Pete King, a New York Republican who chairs a panel on counterterrorism and intelligence, said on ABC that the threat included dates but not locations of possible attacks.
“The threat was specific as to how enormous it was going to be and also that certain dates were given,” King said. He added that while authorities assume any attack is likely to come in the Middle East, warnings to state and local authorities in the U.S. were warranted because of the uncertainty.
“This is a wake-up call,” King said. “Al Qaida is in many ways stronger than it was before 9/11 because it has mutated and it’s spread in dramatically different locations. And Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is the most deadly of all the Al Qaida affiliates.”
On Friday the Obama administration announced the weekend closures and the State Department announced a global travel alert.
The warning urged American travelers to take extra precautions overseas, citing potential dangers involved with public transportation systems and other prime sites for tourists. It noted that previous terrorist attacks have centered on subway and rail networks as well as airplanes and boats. It suggested travelers sign up for State Department alerts and register with U.S. consulates in the countries they visit. The alert expires on Aug. 31.
Associated Press material used in this report.