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Chambliss: NSA spying uncovered threat

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, revealed on Sunday that the National Security Agency's controversial surveillance programs uncovered information about current terrorist threats to the United States.

"These programs are controversial, we understand that," Chambliss said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "But they are also very important… If we did not have these programs, then we simply would not be able to listen in on the bad guys."

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Based on information about a possible al Qaeda plot, the State Department closed more than 20 diplomatic posts and issued a worldwide travel alert on Friday. Top administration officials met late Saturday to discuss the threat. 

Chambliss, who has access to classified information as a member of the Intelligence Committee, said that the NSA learned of the plot by using its authority under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to intercept communications between suspected terrorists.

The provision gives the NSA power to obtain secret court orders forcing phone and Internet companies to turn over their users' communications. The law requires that the target of the surveillance must be "reasonably believed" to be outside of the United States. 

Recent revelations about the scope of the NSA's surveillance have prompted outrage over privacy violations and calls on Capitol Hill to rein in the programs.

"So yes, these programs—even though they're controversial—this is a good indication of why they're so important," Chambliss said.