Online technology is advancing past the ability of the United States to effectively gather intelligence to protect itself from outside threats such as terrorism, Sen. Ron Johnson told Newsmax TV
The Wisconsin Republican is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and has set a meeting for Thursday to discuss the threat of terrorism inside U.S. borders.
"Hopefully, the committee and . . . the broad American public really understand the reality of what's happening with ISIS, how they're effectively using social media to recruit and inspire," Johnson told "Newsmax Prime" host J.D. Hayworth.
"Just think about how sick that is, creating these videos of beheadings and other barbaric acts that actually inspire people, like what we've just witnessed with these two that committed the terrorist attack in Texas."
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The Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed credit for the Sunday attack on an event in Garland, Texas, that left two American ISIS sympathizers dead and a police officer wounded.
The "Draw Muhammad" contest was billed as a free-speech event to counter the efforts by Islamic extremists to forbid drawings of Islam's founder because Muslims consider it blasphemous to do so.
One of the men who attempted the Sunday attack had been prodded by an ISIS sympathizer on Twitter
One of Thursday's witnesses will testify that there are between 46,000 and 90,000 overt ISIS-supporter Twitter accounts, Johnson told Newsmax.
"It gives you the scope of the problem," he said. "We're searching for needles in haystacks."
President Barack Obama has sought help from the tech industry in decrypting the email accounts of suspected terrorists but he has been met with resistance, Johnson said.
"Obviously, Silicon Valley is resisting that," he said, "and even if they agreed to that ... there are other email service providers around the world that will encrypt.
"We need to recognize the reality of the situation: that technology's advanced to the point where we are not going to have an effective intelligence-gathering capability to protect America," Johnson said.
America's first line of defense is effective intelligence capability with robust and continuous congressional monitoring and oversight, he said.
Key provisions of the Patriot Act, including bulk data collection, are set to expire at the end of this month, and Johnson said the danger from homegrown terrorists communicating with overseas organizations will be a topic for members of Congress who want to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) courts and National Security Agency monitoring.
Former NSA leaker Edward Snowden's revelations are "doing great harm to our own capabilities" to monitor terrorists inside the country, Johnson said.
Moving to other topics, Johnson said he supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership
(TPP) trade deal favored by Obama but not many Democrats in Congress. Opponents say the deal would give too much power to the president in trade deals and allow Congress only to "rubber-stamp" his decisions.
Johnson disagreed, telling Newsmax, "We can't have 535 members of Congress negotiating."
The TPP still would require the president to bring any trade deal to Congress before final approval could be granted.
Critics have complained the deal is being kept secret from the public, with members of Congress only allowed to read the bill behind locked doors and not discuss it afterward.
Johnson said it would hurt negotiations to make them public before they are complete. The deal will be made public once talks are finished, he said.
"That will be available for public display, but you just can't allow the negotiation back and forth to be made public," Johnson said. "That actually makes sense. I don't think there's anything nefarious going on there."
Hayworth noted that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had tweeted that two U.S. officials threatened military action against Iran if a nuclear deal couldn't be reached, and that such talk could actually derail negotiations.
Johnson said he didn't know whether Khamenei was talking about him, but said, "I don't see a deal with Iran preventing them from getting a nuclear weapon."
The senator said he wants to ensure Congress is able to approve any deal that is made.
Like many critics, Johnson said the deal would be a treaty, requiring a two-thirds vote of the Senate for ratification. The Corker-Menendez bill would require the opposite: a two-thirds vote to kill the agreement.
"That is not the appropriate advice and consent that the Constitution called for," he said.
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