CIA chief: Terrorists watching Senate NSA fight

Terrorists who want to attack the U.S. are closely monitoring the congressional battle over the Patriot Act with hopes of finding ways to strike, the head of the CIA said on Sunday.

“I think terrorist elements have watched very carefully what has happened here in the United States,” Director John Brennan said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

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“Whether or not it’s disclosures of classified information, or whether it’s changes in the law and policies, they’re looking for the seams to operate within,” he added. “This is something that we can’t afford to deal with right now, because if you look at the horrific terrorist attacks and violence that’s being perpetrated around the globe, we need to keep our country safe.”

Brennan’s comments are the latest pressure from the Obama administration, which has been frantically warning Congress not to run through the midnight deadline to renew three parts of the Patriot Act. The administration has repeatedly urged lawmakers to pass the USA Freedom Act, which would renew those laws while also ending the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.   

“The tools that the government has used over the last dozen year to keep this country safe are integral to making sure were able to stop terrorist attacks,” Brennan said.

The odds for passing a bill appeared to get a lot tougher this weekend, after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) pledged to do everything he could to force the laws to expire. Paul is running for president and has come under some criticism for using the Patriot Act deadline to prop up his White House campaign.

On Sunday, Brennan added to that criticism.

 “Unfortunately, I think that there’s been a little bit too much political grandstanding and crusading for ideological causes that have rally skewed the debate,” the CIA leader said. “These tools are important to American lives.”