By Jeremy Herb
Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Monday called for a “total review” of all intelligence collection programs as she criticized the National Security Agency for spying on foreign leaders.
“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," Feinstein said.
Feinstein has been one of the NSA’s staunchest congressional defenders amid the uproar over its phone records surveillance, but she said that the spying on foreign leaders without President Obama’s knowledge was a “big problem.”
“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 in a statement. “Therefore our oversight needs to be strengthened and increased.”
Feinstein said that she planned to initiate a major review into all of the intelligence community’s collection methods.
“The White House has informed me that collection on our allies will not continue, which I support,” she said. “But as far as I’m concerned, Congress needs to know exactly what our intelligence community is doing."
Feinstein said she was “totally opposed” to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of U.S. allies.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders have expressed outrage over reports that the NSA was spying on Merkel since 2002 and that it spied on 35 world leaders.
The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Obama was not told of the intelligence gathering on world leaders until this summer.
Feinstein called for the president to be required to approve the kinds of intelligence collection on foreign leaders that was detailed in reports over the past week.
“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,” Feinstein said.
The Senate Intelligence panel has been preparing to mark up legislation to reform the NSA’s data collection practices in the wake of the uproar over its phone metadata collection.
The House Intelligence Committee has the NSA director and other top intelligence officials testifying in a rare open hearing on Tuesday, as they also prepare to craft legislation.