Senators call for investigation of surveillance programs

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The letter was signed by Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahySessions postpones Senate testimony on DOJ funding GOP talks of narrowing ‘blue-slip’ rule for judges GOP bill would create mandatory minimums for crimes against police MORE (D-Vt.), ranking member Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyIt’s time to rethink prisoner re-entry GOP talks of narrowing ‘blue-slip’ rule for judges Grassley: Don't expect anti-Trump leaks to stop after special counsel appointed MORE (R-Iowa) and Sens. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerCongress urges Trump administration to release public transit funding Overnight Tech: FCC begins rolling back net neutrality | Sinclair deal puts heat on regulators | China blames US for 'Wanna Cry' attack Sasse dominates Twitter with Schumer photo, 'reefer' caption MORE (D-N.Y.), Mike LeeMike LeeOvernight Tech: FCC won't fine Colbert over Trump joke | Trump budget slashes science funding | Net neutrality comment period opens Overnight Healthcare: Divisions emerge in Senate over preexisting conditions The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Utah), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseIt’s time to rethink prisoner re-entry Lawmakers vow to move ahead with Russia probes Senate panel advances Trump's appeals court nominee MORE (D-R.I.), Ted CruzTed CruzLobbying World GOP skeptical of Trump plan for paid parental leave GOP talks of narrowing ‘blue-slip’ rule for judges MORE (R-Texas), Chris CoonsChris CoonsOvernight Defense: Trump hits back over special counsel | US bombs pro-Assad forces | GOP chairman unveils proposed Pentagon buying reforms Special counsel appointment gets bipartisan praise Dem lawmakers voice shock, outrage on Comey memo MORE (D-Del.), Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeGOP talks of narrowing ‘blue-slip’ rule for judges Republicans consumed by Trump-Comey saga Senate panel approves bill allowing some border patrol agents to skip polygraphs MORE (R-Ariz.) and Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalFive things to know about Joe Lieberman Special counsel appointment gets bipartisan praise Dem senators push for probe of Sessions over Comey firing MORE (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.