Charles Dharapak/AP

Senate Intel Committee Orders ‘Major Review’ of U.S. Spying Practices

The Senate Intelligence Committee will conduct a “major review” of all intelligence gathering programs after it’s revealed that the National Security Agency has been spying on U.S. allies.

“It is abundantly clear that a total review of all intelligence programs is necessary so that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are fully informed as to what is actually being carried out by the intelligence community,” Committee Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a statement on Monday.

“Unlike NSA’s collection of phone records under a court order, it is clear to me that certain surveillance activities have been in effect for more than a decade and that the Senate Intelligence Committee was not satisfactorily informed. Therefore our oversight needs to be strengthened and increased,” she said. “With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of U.S. allies—including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany—let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed.”

“It is my understanding that President Obama was not aware Chancellor Merkel’s communications were being collected since 2002. That is a big problem,” she said.

Feinstein said that “unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers. The president should be required to approve any collection of this sort.”

There are currently two ongoing reviews of U.S. spying practices — a White House probe, run by the National Security Council, and an outside investigation, consisting of members appointed by Obama, including the former acting director of the CIA, Mike Morell, and Cass Sunstein, the husband of U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power and former head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that the White House review would be released by the end of the year

Still, that’s not sufficient for the Senate Intelligence Committee, Feinstein said. “The White House has informed me that collection on our allies will not continue, which I support. But as far as I’m concerned, Congress needs to know exactly what our intelligence community is doing,” she said. 

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