Feinstein: Hack shows need for NSA Internet spying

Feinstein: Hack shows need for NSA Internet spying
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The massive digital theft of federal workers’ data is a prime example of why the National Security Agency needs the power to hunt hackers using overseas Internet surveillance programs, said Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTrump administration urges Congress to reauthorize NSA surveillance program The Hill's Morning Report - More talk on guns; many questions on Epstein's death Juan Williams: We need a backlash against Big Tech MORE (D-Calif.) on Friday.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) on Thursday said hackers had snapped up employment records on roughly 4 million workers. Officials said they suspect China is involved.

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The breach made news the same day that newly disclosed documents from government leaker Edward Snowden revealed the government had secretly expanded the NSA’s Internet snooping authority.

In 2012, the administration gave the NSA license to sift through Americans' Web traffic overseas in order to suss out hackers tied to foreign governments.

In a Friday statement, Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, tied the reports.

The OPM breach, she said, exposed “how far-reaching this problem is.”

“Recent media reports have shed light on NSA efforts to identify, track and thwart cyber attacks originating in foreign countries,” Feinstein continued. “These programs are not intended to go after Americans or small-scale cyber theft. They are targeted at foreign governments, terrorist groups and overseas criminal syndicates that commit sweeping attacks on U.S. networks, stealing data from millions of Americans and costing our economy trillions of dollars.”

The extent of the NSA’s surveillance authority has been the subject of contentious debate on Capitol Hill in recent weeks.

After considerable strong-arming from privacy-minded lawmakers, Senate leaders eventually allowed a surveillance reform bill, the USA Freedom Act, to pass on Tuesday.

The measure ended a controversial bulk phone metadata collection program, but left a number of Internet surveillance programs mostly untouched.

Reformers have already begun gearing up to go after those programs next. But the path might be challenging.

Security- and intelligence-focused lawmakers argue that digital dangers are rapidly increasing, as shown by the string of major data breaches across the public and private sector.

“It’s impossible to overstate this threat,” Feinstein said. “Trillions of dollars, the private data of every single American, even the security of critical infrastructure like our power grid, nuclear plants and drinking water are all at risk.”

“I believe we can protect the privacy of Americans and at the same time put in place powerful safeguards and tools to prevent these cyber attacks from abroad,” she added. “We need to act quickly.”