Colleagues of former Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., describe the septuagenarian as competent and congenial — the “Mister Rogers” of Republicans, as Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said — but his positions on issues including NSA surveillance, Edward Snowden, torture, and Guantanamo Bay are bound to spark arguments with civil libertarians as Congress debates his nomination today by President-elect Donald Trump to succeed James Clapper as director of national intelligence.
In 2013, just one week after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden came forward as the source of documents revealing the global extent of the NSA’s mammoth surveillance regime, Coats penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal lambasting the disclosures and the ensuing media coverage.
“Unfortunately, the Obama administration — especially of late — has fueled people’s distrust of government, which has made the reaction to Mr. Snowden’s leak far worse,” he wrote, pleading with his colleagues in Congress to stop “mischaracterizing” the surveillance programs Snowden exposed.
Coats said the NSA’s programs, including its bulk collection of American telephone records, were “legal, constitutional and used under the strict oversight of all three branches of government” — though courts later disagreed, and Congress amended the law to end the American records collection program, as Snowden pointed out on Twitter on Thursday.
While Coats professed his belief in defending privacy and national security in tandem, he focused his efforts on making sure the deep national security state escaped unscathed — losing none of its powers to engage in mass spying. He pushed for counterintelligence policies that would root out leakers like Snowden in the future.
Read the rest at The Intercept.