Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinDems get it wrong: 'Originalism' is mainstream, even for liberal judges Human rights leaders warn against confirming Gorsuch Feinstein sees slipping support among California voters: poll MORE (D-Calif.) chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Friday that the National Security Agency (NSA) never “intentionally abused its authority,” following a report that the agency had broken its own privacy rules thousands of times in the past several years.
Feinstein insisted, however, that the rules violations were not intentional and did not warrant indignation.
Most “compliance incidents,” she said, simply involve a person being surveilled abroad who then travels to the United States. Monitoring a person in the U.S. requires following a different process, and because the NSA cannot immediately tell if the person is in the United States, it could accidentally overstep its bounds.
“The majority of these ‘compliance incidents’ are, therefore, unintentional and do not involve any inappropriate surveillance of Americans,” Feinstein said.
Agency officials acted by "ending or adapting" the activity involved for each discovered incident, she said.
She reiterated that “the committee has never identified an instance in which the NSA has intentionally abused its authority to conduct surveillance for inappropriate purposes.”
Some of Feinstein’s Democratic colleagues disagreed with her position, however.
Sens. Mark UdallMark UdallGorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' Election autopsy: Latinos favored Clinton more than exit polls showed Live coverage: Tillerson's hearing for State MORE (D-Colo.) and Ron WydenRon WydenThe Hill’s Whip List: Where Dems stand on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Overnight Regulation: Senate moves to strike Obama-era internet privacy rules Overnight Tech: Senate votes to eliminate Obama internet privacy rules | FCC chief wants to stay out of 'political debate' on fake news | Wikileaks reveals new CIA docs MORE (D-Ore.), who both sit on the Intelligence Committee, released a joint statement saying the new leaks vindicated past claims that “violations of [privacy] laws and rules were more serious than had been acknowledged.”
The senators also warned that “this confirmation is just the tip of a larger iceberg,” suggesting further leaks could be coming.
The senators called for greater transparency in the operations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and for the appointment of a public advocate to contest executive branch claims made before the court. In a press conference last week, President Obama promised to create such an advocate.