GOP: Bolster surveillance in wake of attacks

Getty Images

A trio of freshman Senate Republicans, including one White House contender, is trying to up pressure on Congress to pass new surveillance legislation, saying it's needed to defeat "radical Islamic jihadism" after a string of recent attacks.

"How many attacks on the homeland will we have to endure before the president understands that lawful intelligence tools subject to judicial review are necessary to win the long war against radical Islamic jihadism?," Republican Sens. Marco RubioMarco RubioLanny Davis: Clinton a clear winner, with or without sound Could Snapchat be the digital bridge to younger voters? Koch-linked veterans group launches ads in Senate battlegrounds MORE (Fla.), who is running for president, Tom CottonTom CottonFears mount that Obama will change course on Israel in final months GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase GOP to Obama: Sanction Chinese entities to get to North Korea MORE (Ark.) and Joni Ernst (Iowa) wrote in the Independent Journal Review on Friday.

ADVERTISEMENT
The op-ed follows the attacks in Paris and California, which the senators say underscore "just how dangerous the world has become under Obama."

The attacks have reignited a debate over a surveillance reform bill passed earlier this year. Under the USA Freedom Act, the National Security Agency (NSA) ended its bulk collection of phone metadata and switched to a new system late last month in which it receives a narrow set of records from individual phone companies after obtaining a court order.

The senators, however, suggested on Friday that the new law would lead to the president "unilaterally disarming the United States in the fight against terrorism."
 
Instead, they want Congress to pass legislation offered earlier this month from Cotton, which is backed by nine Republicans including Rubio and Ernst. The measure would require the government to keep phone records already collected under the NSA's previous metadata collection program for officials to search through for five years.
 
It would also make permanent two other provisions of the NSA reform bill tied to "lone wolf" suspects and those who use multiple devices, as well as a portion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that allows the NSA to collect vast amounts of information about Americans’ and foreigners’ behavior on the Internet, which is set to expire in 2017.
 
Friday's op-ed also comes as Rubio has been locked in a rhetorical battle with Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzHouse approves stopgap funding, averting costly shutdown Overnight Tech: TV box plan faces crucial vote | Trump transition team to meet tech groups | Growing scrutiny of Yahoo security Could Snapchat be the digital bridge to younger voters? MORE (R-Texas), who is also running for the Republican presidential nomination, over the surveillance reform bill.
 
After the Paris attacks, Rubio has repeatedly accused Cruz of making the country less safe. Cruz supported the USA Freedom Act earlier this year, while Rubio voted against it.
 
FBI Director James Comey, however, suggested earlier this week that it's too soon to determine if the new law is hampering the administration's ability to track terrorists.