NSA surveillance and the CIA-Senate spying controversy

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has now given an extraordinary speech suggesting the Central Intelligence Agency violated the Constitution by spying on the United States Senate.

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CIA Director John Brennan has denied the charges, and the Justice Department has opened an investigation of the matter. There are two distinct issues: First, did the CIA spy on the Senate Intelligence Committee by hacking committee computers or some other means? If this happened — and I will offer no opinion at this time — it would be an extremely serious matter and a violation of both the law and Constitution that would almost certainly be prosecuted.

Second, and equally important, is what the internal CIA review about the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of "enhanced interrogations" (which some of us call torture) determined.

Personally, I oppose torture, period. But there is a fundamental issue of whether the internal CIA review was accurately presented to the Intelligence Committee.

Specifically, if the CIA review concluded the interrogations were not effective, but the CIA represented to the committee that they were, this would be a grave offense indeed.

I do not know the answer, but without question the American people deserve —all of us deserve — to know the answer. This is particularly important because at this moment, there is far-reaching surveillance underway by the National Security Agency. I believe the NSA surveillance is out of control and should be significantly cut back.

There are conflicting reports about whether terrorist attacks have been prevented by that surveillance. The stronger view at this moment, in my opinion, is that it has not prevented terrorist attacks. Spying and lying is the way of the world in espionage, but it should never be the way of the world in relations between the intelligence community, Congress and the American people.

We the people deserve a government whose branches are not spying on each other, or us. We the need the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth on the issues surrounding the CIA-Senate spying controversy. And we need the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth on the matter of torture and whether we have been protected or endangered by the unprecedented surveillance of the NSA.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at brentbbi@webtv.net.