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The White House Won’t Answer if America Is Less Safe Without the Patriot Act

White House press secretary Josh Earnest speaks about the resignation of Secret Service Director Julia Pierson amid a recent White House security breach, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014, during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

White House press secretary Josh Earnest ripped the Senate for allowing the Patriot Act to lapse, but dodged three times on the question of whether America is less safe.

Early in the press briefing Monday, a reporter asked on a scale of 1 to 10, how less safe is the United States compared to before the law as allowed to expire.

“That is something our national security professionals can speak more directly to,” Earnest said.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest answers questions about the government's Ebola response during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Friday, Oct. 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

“We have these authorities that are included in the Patriot Act, the majority of which are not controversial and have been in place since 2001, and as our national security professionals tell us, have been used to elicit information that has been valuable to ongoing investigations,” Earnest said. “The question you’ve heard me offer up from the podium is: Why would we add unnecessary risks to the country and our national security because of Congress’s failure to act?”

He gave a similar answer to another reporter who asked the question again. Another reporter observed in her question that opponents of the Patriot Act point out that the law did not prevent a terror attack: “You and the administration can’t list or won’t list any concrete examples of how it did help. You won’t say whether the American public is less safe now. If this is so important, doesn’t your argument seem to be weaker than the opposition?"

Earnest again didn’t directly respond to the “less safe” matter, but explained there is broad bipartisan consensus for renewal of the Patriot Act and the USA Freedom Act.

“That is not the conclusion of 338 Democrats and Republican in the House of Representatives who came together on a common-sense bipartisan proposal that would implement reforms to strengthen civil liberty protections while also reauthorizing tools that our national security professional says are important in keeping us safe,” Earnest said.

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