Al Qaeda's resurgence making things harder for civil libertarians in NSA debate

“I think it’s going to calm down some of the stridency,” said Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who’s exploring a White House run to stress the importance of national security. The latest Al Qaeda threat won’t end the debate over the proper boundaries of surveillance, King said, but “what it is going to do is show the public how critical the NSA surveillance is.”…

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned on CNN that any lawmaker who wants to “gut” the NSA surveillance program “make[s] us much less safe, and you’re putting our nation at risk.”

And they’ve got lots of backup from veterans of the George W. Bush administration, who insist that the growing signs of terrorist activity overseas — which also include the Benghazi attacks and the jailbreaks in Iraq by Al Qaeda fighters — prove that intelligence officials need the full range of surveillance tools to sweep up as much information as possible.

“It’s rare to find a single, smoking-gun piece of intelligence, and you’re sifting through all of the information under extreme time pressure, not a leisurely pace over the course of months,” said Michael Chertoff, who ran the Department of Homeland Security in Bush’s second term.