Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that she plans to hire new staff in order to conduct a wholesale review of the intelligence community’s surveillance programs.
Feinstein told reporters Tuesday that she wanted to hire additional staff for the review, which she also envisions inlcuding congressional hearings and the Intelligence Community inspector general.
“What we have to do is take a look at every program,” she said. “We’ve got to hire some additional staff to do it, because we’re down 20 percent in staff. As soon as we can do that, we can divide it up, use the inspectors general, take a good look at all these programs, review them, hold hearings on them, and ask the questions.”
Congressional staff budgets have been cut under sequestration. Feinstein did not say whether her committee had funds for additional hires available or if she would seek additional funds for the review.
On Monday, Feinstein called for a “total review” of intelligence collection programs as she criticized the National Security Agency for spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
She said she wanted to review all programs after the agency failed to inform Congress about this one.
“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,” Feinstein said.
Feinstein’s call for a review was notable because she’s been one of the most vocal defenders of the NSA as it’s come under fire for its phone metadata programs.
It’s unclear whether her review plan would have bipartisan support.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the top Republican on the Intelligence panel, declined to comment Tuesday when asked about Feinstein’s call for a review.
Feinstein said Tuesday that she understood why her committee — and President Obama — did not know the spying on foreign leaders was ongoing when the program was started in a prior administration.
“You wouldn’t know to ask. That’s the thing. I wouldn’t know to ask,” Feinstein said. “I don’t blame the president. It’s kind of the system.
“The NSA programs are under scrutiny, some of them you don’t know to ask because you don’t know they exist,” she said. “And that’s why we need to do a whole review.”