As Paul slams NSA, Coats chastises critics

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by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on June 19, 2013 at 6:21 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 19 at 6:41 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- As U.S. Sen. Rand Paul alleges the National Security Agency's surveillance programs represent an abuse of power, U.S. Sen. Dan Coats is urging fellow members of Congress to "get the facts first before we politicize this process."

"This kind of feed red meat back to people who are really not getting the correct information," Coats said in an interview from Washington with WHAS11.

"All this information is available to every member of Congress," Coats continued.  "We need to be responsible in how we convey what we know and don't know back to the people we represent."

Yet Paul is not letting up.  At a Tea Party rally against IRS practices outside the Capitol on Wednesday, Paul joked about the NSA's reach.

"I woke up this morning and I couldn't find my cell phone," Paul told the crowd.  "So, I asked (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid if I could borrow his.  You think the NSA is going to be surprised when they see Harry Reid at a Tea Party?"

As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Coats says nothing leaked by Edward Snowden about the NSA monitoring telephone records was a surprise to him.  Coats say he has invited Paul to see for himself why the programs are legal and necessary.

"We have talked personally about it," Coats told WHAS11.  "My only request was that whether I accompany him or not, sit down with General Alexander, go out to NSA, come to our intelligence hearings. All of this information is available to any member of Congress and I just want to make sure that everybody is aware of exactly not only what is happening but what isn't happening."

"We have built layers and layers of oversight protections into these programs and we are as sensitive to violating Americans' privacy as Rand is," Coats continued.

After accusing "members of Congress" of grandstanding on the issue, Coats declined to single out Paul.

"I'm not going to go there," Coats responded.  "Rand has a legitimate concern about the power of government in people's lives. I share that."

While Coats suggests Edward Snowden's NSA leaks "border on treason," Paul said last week that the actions compare to Rev. Martin Luther King's civil disobedience.

"(Snowden) says that he was defending the Bill of Rights that our government is not doing a good job of defending, the Fourth Amendment against search and seizure," Paul said to reporters.  "We also have to compare that to the head of our national security intelligence who came to one of our committees and basically lied to the committee about whether or not they were collecting data on Americans."

Coats, however, told WHAS11 that nothing in Snowden's revelations is news to him.

"I have constant communications in secure rooms every week, hours and hours spent with all of our intelligence agencies," Coats said.  "That's the role of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee.  We are on top of these things.  That's our job."

As for Snowden, Coats said the United States should push China to hand Snowden over for prosecution.

"This is a guy on a mission which I think borders on treason in terms of not fulfilling his oath to secrecy when he took this job," Coats said. "Or not using proper ways of expressing his concerns through the Inspector General, through coming to our committee or calling up a member of Congress, or whatever."

"But to simply do what he has done has done grave harm to our security," Coats continued.  "It has given information to our enemies that will allow them to perhaps bypass these efforts."

"People will die as a consequence of this," Coats said.

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