Sen. Lindsey Graham on Sunday endorsed President Obama’s move to close nearly two dozen U.S. embassies and consulates in the Middle East and Africa for the day, calling the terrorism threat behind the decision “scary.”
Graham, R-S.C., said the administration’s awareness of the threats prove that the controversial surveillance by the National Security Agency is needed.
Graham told CNN’s State of the Union he was recently briefed about the terrorist threat along with Vice President Joe Biden and believes the administration is making a move that takes into account the deaths of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, who were killed in Benghazi during a Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack.
“They’re taking the right approach to this,” Graham said. “Benghazi was a complete failure. The threats were real there, the reporting was real, and we basically dropped the ball. We’ve learned from Benghazi, thank God, and the administration is doing this right.”
Graham said al Qaeda is “on the rise” around the Asian Peninsula where embassies have been closed, making the NSA information critical.
“The NSA program is proving its worth yet again,” Graham said.
Graham, along with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., will depart soon for Egypt, where the recently elected government was overthrown last month.
Some lawmakers have been clamoring to cut off more than $1 billion in U.S. aid to Egypt because of the instability there, but the Senate rejected such a move last week.
McCain and Graham both back continued U.S. aid to Egypt, but Graham said that he will tell Egyptian leaders that they must soon elect a new government to replace the military leadership that has temporarily taken over.
American aid, Graham said, “has to be with the understanding that Egypt is going to march toward democracy, not toward a military dictatorship."
“And that’s the message we’re going to send,” he said.
Democrat Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, who also appeared on the show, disagreed with Graham’s support of the NSA program even in the wake of the new terrorism threats that resulted in the embassy closures.
Democrats and some Republicans have said the agency’s sweeping phone and email surveillance is far too broad and violates privacy rights.
‘I don’t think the metadata program can survive in its current form,” Schiff said. “And I’ve been urging the NSA for some time to restructure the program so that the telephone companies hold onto their own data. There’s no reason for the government to obtain all of that. We can still go to those companies when necessary.”