Politics

Liz Cheney Changes Her Tone On NSA Controversy

Cheney said last week that there were “legitimate questions and concerns” with the National Security Agency program, but in June she said she was “a supporter” of the program.

Wyoming Senate candidate Liz Cheney was less supportive than she has been in the past of the controversial National Security Agency surveillance program in an interview published Saturday.

“There are legitimate questions and concerns that have to be answered about what the NSA has been doing,” she said in an interview published Saturday in the Casper Star-Tribune.

In an appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show in June, however, Cheney said that she supported the NSA data collection program.

“You know, I’m a supporter of the NSA program. And I believe Admiral Hayden, for example, has said that if it had been in place before 9/11, we may well have prevented that attack. So I think we have to be very careful here,” Cheney said. “If we have a program under way where the government is, for example, finding pocket litter of a terrorist and using that to say, ‘OK, who else in this country have they talked to?’ I would be much more hesitant to say immediately, look, this is a problem with this program. I think our national security depends upon us finding the bad guys.”

As public outrage over the NSA’s actions has grown since details of the program were leaked, Cheney, who announced her bid for the Senate in July, has distanced herself from the hawkish policies of her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Cheney told the Star-Tribune that her father was briefed on the NSA program when he was in Washington.

“He can vouch for it for the time he was in office,” she said. “You know he’s not briefed into it anymore, but he’s probably less skeptical about it that I am.”

The former VP said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper last week that he is a “strong supporter” of the program.

In her appearance on Hannity in June, Cheney said her anger was directed at NSA leaker Edward Snowden. She also criticized President Obama for his handling of the program, but, she added, “Again, I would be very hesitant to criticize the NSA program itself without knowing much more about it.”

Update: Kara Ahern, a spokeswoman for Cheney, gave the following statement:

Liz had always said that she believes the NSA program has saved lives and prevented attacks. And she does not support ending the program. She thinks we must take great care, as she said on Hannity, when we are dealing with classified programs like the NSA. She has also said that, in light of President Obama’s abuse of power in other agencies, such as the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service, it is understandable that people are very concerned about whether he is also abusing the NSA program. Liz believes that the program may need to be reformed and we need much stronger congressional oversight to ensure that this program is not being abused by the Obama administration.

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