Lawmakers sparred over the role of the NSA in preventing terrorism on Meet the Press Sunday.
Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss said that NSA surveillance prevented Najibullah Zazi from attacking the New York City subway and also led to the capture of David Headley in connection to the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
Chambliss argued that the agency’s greater breadth after 9/11 saved lives.
“NSA did not take advantage of the technology that is out there today and had they done so—we’ll never be able to say that we could’ve prevented 9/11 from happening—but certainly we weren’t doing the things that we were capable of doing, to try to make sure that these bad guys don’t have all the tools,” Chambliss said.
But Democratic Senator Mark Udall of Colorado said that going through the proper channels and first obtaining a search warrant could just as effectively stopped terrorists.
“It doesn’t have to be all or nothing,” Udall said. “I think we owe it to the American people to have a wholesome debate in the open about the extent of these programs. You have a law that’s been interpreted secretly by a secret court that then issues secret orders to generate a secret program.”