Feb. 12, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Hill Debate on Domestic Wiretapping Reignited

Updated: 6:16 p.m.

Leading Congressional Democrats on Thursday dove back into the debate over the nation’s domestic wiretapping program in the wake of allegations that the National Security Agency overstepped its authority to conduct surveillance of American citizens, including at least one Member of Congress.

Lawmakers on Thursday announced their intention to review allegations that NSA’s surveillance activities have gone beyond what Congress intended — to intercept citizens’ phone calls, e-mails and other communications. The allegations also include charges that in at least one instance the NSA attempted to wiretap a phone call of an unidentified Member of Congress who was traveling abroad.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the matter would be investigated by Congress.

“These are disturbing allegations that deserve and are receiving the fullest attention of the appropriate committees of Congress. Congress expects to receive reports from the Inspectors General of key agencies regarding warrantless wiretapping activities, including those conducted under President Bush’s Terrorist Surveillance Program. Should these reports or any further investigations by Congress prove these allegations true, those who directed these activities in the Bush Administration must be held accountable,” Pelosi said in a statement.

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and subcommittee chairmen Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.) issued a statement saying they were “alarmed” by the reports and called for a “full and prompt briefing of our Members.”

“While we appreciate that the processes set forth in last year’s FISA Improvements Act permit these potential abuses to be identified and disclosed, the program’s potential impingement of the rights of U.S. citizens remains a concern. We commend the Obama Administration for acting promptly, and hope we can work together to redouble efforts to protect these rights.”

House Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) issued a statement saying that his committee had already been “aggressively looking into the matter” after it was informed of problems at the NSA.

“To date, the Committee has held four separate oversight sessions, and I guarantee that the Committee will continue its inquiry and will be actively involved in monitoring this issue,” Reyes said.

Likewise, Senate Intelligence Chairman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) announced that her committee would also hold hearings on the matter.

“These are serious allegations, and we will make sure we get the facts,” Feinstein said. “The Committee is looking into this, and we will hold a hearing on this subject within one month.”

According to a Wednesday report in the New York Times, the NSA attempted to conduct a wiretap on an unidentified lawmaker’s telephone conversations without a court order during a trip to the Middle East in 2005 or 2006. The NSA claimed the Member may have been in contact with “an extremist who had possible terrorist ties and was already under surveillance,” according to the newspaper.

Although the plan to conduct surveillance on the lawmaker was ultimately dropped, the allegations highlight the controversy of the Bush administration’s wiretapping program.

The revelation of the attempted wiretapping of a lawmaker brought quick condemnations from privacy advocates as well as calls for changes to the nation’s domestic and international spying laws.

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