McConnell Opposes Bill that Weakens Counter-Terrorism Tools

‘I cannot support passage of the so called USA Freedom Act. It does not enhance the privacy protections of American citizens. And it surely undermines American security by taking one more tool form our warfighters at exactly the wrong time.’

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the USA Freedom Act:

“Earlier this year I observed that President Obama’s national security policy has been noteworthy for its consistent objectives: drawing down our conventional and nuclear forces, withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan, ending the tools developed by the previous administration to wage the War on Terror and placing a greater reliance upon international organizations and diplomacy.

“None of this is a surprise: the President ran in 2008 as the candidate who would end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the War on Terror. And our nation has a regrettable history of drawing down our forces and capabilities after each conflict only to find ourselves ill-prepared for the next great struggle.

“The bookends to the President’s policies were the executive orders signed his first week in office which included the declaration that Guantanamo would be closed within a year, without any plan for what to do with its detainees, and the executive orders that ended the Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and interrogation programs. Some of those detainees are now in Qatar preparing to rejoin the Taliban, some are in Uruguay camped out in a park across from the American Embassy, and regrettably some are back on the battlefield in Yemen, Afghanistan and in Syria.

“And last year the President announced that all of our combat forces would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of his term of office — whether or not the Taliban were successful in capturing parts of Afghanistan, whether or not Al Qaeda senior leadership had found a more permissive environment in the tribal areas of Pakistan, and whether or not Al Qaeda has been completely driven from Afghanistan.

“I will repeat: The President has been a reluctant Commander-in-Chief. And between those two bookends, much has occurred that has undermined our national security.

“There was the failure to negotiate a Status of Forces agreement with Iraq that would have allowed for a residual military force and prevented the assault by the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant. China is aggressively expanding its sphere of influence. There is the threat to veto funding for the troops and their equipment without similar increases at the IRS and EPA, which would diminish our military’s ability to respond to the myriad threats facing us today. And Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has doggedly pursued tactics and capabilities to circumvent all that we have done since September 11, 2001 to defend our nation.

“So while the President has inflexibly clung to campaign promises made in 2008, the threat from Al Qaeda has metastasized.

“ISIL — which has broken from Al Qaeda — uses social media to communicate with Americans, divert them to encrypted communications, encourage travel to the would-be Caliphate, and encourage attacks here at home. Al Qaeda and ISIL publish online magazines instructing individuals in terrorist tactics. And in the long run, the Al Nusrah Front in Syria may present the greatest long-term threat to the homeland.

“The President’s efforts to dismantle our counterterrorism tools have not only been inflexible — they are especially ill-timed. And today the Senate will vote on whether or not we should take one more tool away from those who defend this country every day: the ability of a trained analyst, under exceedingly close supervision, and only with the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, to query a database of call data records based on a reasonable articulable suspicion.

“No content. No names. No listening to the phone calls of law-abiding citizens. We are talking about call data records.

“And these are the provider’s records, which is not what the Fourth Amendment speaks to. It speaks to: ‘The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects.’ And let me remind the Senate, the standard for reasonable articulable suspicion is that the terror suspect is associated with a ‘foreign terrorist organization’ as determined by the Court.

“The President’s campaign to destroy the tools used to prevent another terrorist attack has been aided by those seeking to prosecute officers in the intelligence community, diminish our military capabilities, and despicably, to leak and reveal classified information — putting our nation further at risk.

“Those who reveal the tactics, sources and methods of our military and intelligence community give a playbook to ISIL and Al Qaeda. As the Associated Press declared today, the end of the Section 215 program is a ‘resounding victory for Edward Snowden’. It is also a resounding victory for those currently plotting attacks against the homeland.

“Where was the defense of the National Security Agency from the President? Our chairman of the Intelligence Committee and his committee colleagues have worked with determination to educate the Senate concerning the legal, technical, and oversight safeguards currently in place. A CNN poll released today, by the way, states that 61% of Americans think that the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, including data collection, should be renewed.

“The President may be satisfied that his years-long campaign to tear down the integrated capabilities developed after September 11th has inched further. I disagree.

“My view is that the determined effort to fulfill campaign promises made in 2008 reflects an inability to adapt to the current threat, an inflexible view of past political grievances, and a policy that will leave the next President in a weaker position to combat ISIL.

“I cannot support passage of the so called USA Freedom Act. It does not enhance the privacy protections of American citizens. And it surely undermines American security by taking one more tool form our warfighters at exactly the wrong time.”

Related Issues: ISIL, National Security, Iraq, Afghanistan, America's Military, Al Qaeda, Syria