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As the United States and United Kingdom urge citizens and “nonemergency” employees to flee Yemen, some in Washington are using the closures to legitimize increasingly controversial National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance.
Meanwhile, critics have stated that there is no evidence indicating that the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of the phone records of Americans is actually providing unique value to US counterterrorism programs.
The moves came after officials in Washington, D.C. stated that the US intercepted electronic communications in which the current head of al Qaeda allegedly ordered al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to carry out an attack, according to The New York Times.
The group was reportedly ordered to “carry out an attack as early as this past Sunday,” according to the Times, though no attack has occurred as of yet.
Authorities in the United Kingdom and the United States would not specific how many employees would be affected by the move to withdraw personnel.
Politicians in Washington have been using this news to support the NSA’s surveillance, though most of those claiming this is evidence of the efficacy of spying have been supportive in the past.
“To the members of Congress who want to reform the NSA program, great. If you want to gut it, you make us much less safe, and you’re putting our nation at risk,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, according to the Guardian.
Graham has made similar claims in the past, saying in early June that he was “glad” the NSA collected Verizon phone records.
“We need to have policies in place that can deal with the threats that exist, and they are real, and they are growing,” he added.
Graham and others made the rounds recently claiming that this latest incident proves all of the critics wrong.
“The NSA program is proving its worth yet again,” Graham said on CNN.
While Graham was happy to claim the discovery of the plot proves the NSA surveillance is working, he also told CBS that the “public acknowledgement of the interception” actually hinder future efforts.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) claimed that the threat serves as a “wake up call.”
“It’s absolutely crazy to say there’s any conspiracy here,” King said on ABC’s “This Week,” according to CBS.
On Monday, Glenn Greenwald suggested just that, in an interview Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.
While the US is “in the midst of one the most intense debates and sustain debates that we’ve had in a very long time” over NSA surveillance, the sudden claims seem to be quite conveniently timed, according to Greenwald.
“And within literally an amount of hours, the likes of Saxby Chambliss and Lindsey Graham join with the White House and Democrats in Congress — who, remember, are the leading defenders of the NSA at this point — to exploit that terrorist threat, and to insist that it shows that the NSA and these programs are necessary,” Greenwald said to Goodman.
Amie Stepanovich, a lawyer with the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), disputes linking the latest round of terror alerts with the debate surrounding NSA spying.