Senators call for investigation of surveillance programs

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The letter was signed by Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle McConnell to Dems: Don't hold government 'hostage' over DACA Nielsen acknowledges Trump used 'tough language' in immigration meeting MORE (D-Vt.), ranking member Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP senators eager for Romney to join them Five hurdles to a big DACA and border deal Grand jury indicts Maryland executive in Uranium One deal: report MORE (R-Iowa) and Sens. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats will need to explain if they shut government down over illegal immigration White House: Trump remarks didn't derail shutdown talks Schumer defends Durbin after GOP senator questions account of Trump meeting MORE (D-N.Y.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle With religious liberty memo, Trump made America free to be faithful again This week: Time running out for Congress to avoid shutdown MORE (R-Utah), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Finance Dems want more transparency on trade from Trump Trump, Kushner meet with advocates on prison reform Democrats search for Russians — any Russians — for collusion story MORE (D-R.I.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWith religious liberty memo, Trump made America free to be faithful again Interstate compacts aren't the right way to fix occupational licensing laws Texas Dem: ‘I don’t know what to believe’ about what Trump wants for wall MORE (R-Texas), Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsA Department of Energy foundation: An idea whose time has come We must reconcile privacy and safety in the digital era Protecting intellectual property in America is harder than ever MORE (D-Del.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeMcCain rips Trump for attacks on press Bipartisan group to introduce DACA bill in House Flake's anti-Trump speech will make a lot of noise, but not much sense MORE (R-Ariz.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

They asked McCullough to complete the review of the surveillance programs by the end of next year and release a public summary of his findings.

"We have urged appropriate oversight of these activities long before the problems with the implementation of these [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] authorities became public," the senators wrote. "We believe it is important for your office to begin this review without further delay."

They noted that many agencies have their own inspector general, but argued that only McCullough is in a position to provide a comprehensive report on the government's surveillance activities. 

The Washington Post published an internal NSA audit last month showing that analysts had illegally obtained private communications thousands of times in recent years. The government also released a 2009 classified court opinion showing that analysts had improperly accessed data on thousands of phone numbers over several years. 

The NSA has insisted that most of those privacy violations were accidental and that it has implemented tougher internal oversight. 

Many lawmakers have also expressed shock to learn that the NSA has been using a provision of the Patriot Act to collection data on all U.S. phone calls. The provision, Section 215, authorizes the NSA to collect records only if they are "relevant" to a terrorism investigation.