Senators demand more accountability at NSA

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Thursday that aims to strengthen accountability at the National Security Agency by allowing the president to appoint the inspector general (IG).

Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Dan Coats (R-Ind.) introduced S. 2439, the NSA Internal Watchdog Act.

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“We must strike the right balance between protecting our national security and protecting our civil liberties,” Tester said. “This bill will ensure those protections while increasing accountability and transparency at the NSA.”

Currently the NSA director hires the IG, but under their bill, it would be a presidentially appointed position that requires Senate confirmation.

“I don’t know how you can be an independent watchdog if you owe your job to the head of the agency,” McCaskill said. “This bipartisan legislation would inject real independent oversight into the agency and help strengthen accountability over its activities.”

The bill also require the IG to conduct annual reviews of whistleblower protections for agency employees, gives the IG subpoena power over employees who have left the agency, and mandates that any IG audit or investigation include an assessment of a program’s effect on civil liberties.

Lawmakers have grown concerned that NSA programs violate constitutional rights to privacy after information was leaked about domestic surveillance.