Feinstein will seek limits on who can see NSA spy data

 

McClatchy Washington Bureau

The Senate intelligence committee chairman on Thursday vowed an effort to limit the access of government contract workers, such as Edward Snowden, to highly classified information.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., made the promise after senators received a closed-door briefing about the National Security Agency’s massive domestic telephone surveillance programs, which Snowden divulged to the media.

Based on information supplied by Snowden, a British newspaper reported that one program involves cellphone records. The Guardian newspaper, along with The Washington Post, also reported that another program permits the government access to the online activity of users at nine Internet companies

“We will consider changes,” Feinstein told McClatchy after being briefed by Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and five others. “We will certainly have legislation which will limit or prevent contractors from handling highly classified data. We will do some other things.”

Consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton fired Snowden, a 29-year-old computer technician from Maryland, after he admitted leaking information about the surveillance programs.

Snowden had been staying at a Hong Kong hotel. But he checked out Monday and his whereabouts are unknown.

FBI Director Robert Mueller told the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday that Snowden “is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation.”

“These disclosures have caused significant harm to our nation and to our safety,” Mueller told the committee. “We’re taking all necessary steps to hold the person responsible for these disclosures.”

Not all lawmakers agreed with Mueller’s assessment or embraced Feinstein’s call for security restrictions placed on government contractors.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, complained about a growing intelligence bureaucracy and a massive increase since Jimmy Carter’s presidency in the amount of documents marked classified.

“We don’t have a good whistleblower law . . . that’s what we need,” Harkin told a roundtable of African-American journalists Thursday. “I don’t know about this Snowden. My God, everybody’s rushing to judgment . . . stringing him up, hang him first, we’ll have the trial later.

“I don’t know what he did, but when I hear intelligence agencies coming out with these huge pronouncements, I say ‘Wait a second . . . quite frankly, they’re covering their you-know-what.’”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, defended the surveillance efforts Thursday and expressed dismay that President Barack Obama wasn’t doing the same on a regular basis.

“For those of us who have been briefed on these programs, who are aware of these programs, we’re aware how much safety they brought us,” Boehner told reporters. “And we’re also aware of many examples where they’ve helped eliminate terrorist threats.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., hoped that some information about the program will be declassified in the next week or so.

“I’ll tell you this as strongly as I can – the National Security Agency is not reading Americans’ email,” he said. “They’re not collecting Americans’ email by either of these programs. I’ve heard it repeated in news outlets. That is absolutely incorrect.”

Senators were reluctant to talk after the secret briefing, which lasted about an hour. But some lawmakers said they remained convinced that the surveillance program was worthwhile.

“That Americans private information, telephone calls and emails are being rummaged through by the government. That’s not true,” said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

Some skeptics remained eager for more information but were pleased to learn more.

“I can’t say I came out with a master’s degree understanding of it, but it was certainly a step in the right direction,” said Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., after the briefing.

Email: wdouglas@mcclatchydc.com; dlightman@mcclatchydc.com twitter @williamdouglas; @lightmandavid

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  • Solid US job gains expected for 6th straight month

    With a host of reports this week pointing to a healthier U.S. economy, analysts expect Friday's monthly jobs report to send a similar message.

  •  
John Tefft of Va., arrives to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 29, 2014, to be the new U.S. Ambassador to Russia. President Barack Obama's earlier announcement that he is tapping Tefft for the high-profile diplomatic post comes amid a crucial period in U.S.-Russia relations, which have been severely tested over President Vladimir Putin's actions in neighboring Ukraine, among other issues. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has been without an ambassador since February.

    Senate confirms US ambassador to Russia

    After a period in limbo with a slew of other nominees to be U.S. diplomats around the world, John Tefft gained Senate confirmation Thursday night as America's new envoy to Russia.

  • FAA places new restrictions on flights over Iraq

    The Federal Aviation Administration is restricting U.S. airlines from flying at or below 30,000 feet over Iraq because of what it calls "the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict" there.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category