Elected officials have a duty to the American people to engage in an informed and honest debate. So it troubles me that some of my colleagues in Congress are engaging in disingenuous outrage when they were given ample opportunity to learn more, ask questions and even vote against these programs. Mischaracterizing national-security programs for political gain is irresponsible and has the potential to weaken the country's defenses. Members of Congress must remain vigilant in the face of misleading information about the substance and utility of our counterterrorism activities.
As a result of these leaks and subsequent spread of misinformation, the federal government faces a Catch-22. The administration must disclose more information about the use of these programs to regain the people's trust and ensure the protection of civil liberties, but doing so also compromises the programs. As the NSA chief said in his recent testimony, "Everything depends on trust. . . . We do not see a trade-off between security and liberty. It is not a choice, and we can and must do both simultaneously."
The government's interest in carrying out these programs is the most compelling imaginable: an enduring defense against terrorist attacks that could take thousands of innocent lives. I have no doubt that returning to a pre-9/11 security posture will make this country less safe. A majority of Americans agree, and their support is likely to grow as sensationalism and fear are replaced with facts.
Sen. Coats is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.