Sen. Johnson: Civil Liberties, Protection From Terrorism a Balancing Act

Monday, 10 Jun 2013 06:18 PM

By Greg Richter and Kathleen Walter

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The United States faces a balancing act protecting its citizens from terrorists while maintaining essential privacy rights, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., tells Newsmax TV.

"I am as concerned as anybody about protecting our civil liberties. I truly am," Johnson said. "But this is a very delicate balancing act that shifts over time, based on the times and based on the threats we're facing."

Story continued below video.

Johnson tells Newsmax he'd prefer there not be a need for the Patriot Act or the FISA court, both established to attempt to catch terrorists. But since America does face a threat it needs to guard its ability to gather intelligence.

PRISM, the secret data-collecting program exposed by Edward Snowden last week, appears to be similar to a credit card agency mining data to look for patterns and catch thieves who attempt to use stolen numbers, Johnson said.

He said Snowden appears to have done great harm to intelligence-gathering, and that the multiple leaks coming from the White House have him concerned.

PRISM, he said, requires oversight, though not everyone, including all members of Congress, should have access to everything.

"If you had all 535 members of Congress with access to all of our nation's top secrets, we wouldn't have any secrets," he said.

On the issue of President Barack Obama's appointment of U.N. Ambassador
Susan Rice as national security adviser, Johnson was less favorable.

"It's not surprising, but it is pretty disappointing," he tells Newsmax. At a moment when the administration is facing a crisis of credibility on several fronts, the fact that he would pick the very person at the center of the Benghazi talking points scandal is a slap in the face, he said.

"It really is kind of a poke and a stick in Congress's eyes because we obviously have no power to confirm this nomination," he said

Samantha Power, the nominee to replace Rice as U.N. ambassador has support from some Republicans because of her willingness to intervene, he said. He worries, though, that she prefers intervention based on human rights violations alone without considering U.S. national interests.

And the appointment would make Power one of the country's top diplomats.

"She had to resign from the Obama campaign because she called Hillary Clinton a monster," he said. "not displaying a great deal of diplomatic skills there."

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