NSA Violations 'Just the Tip of a Larger Iceberg,' Say Wyden, Udall

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Two Democratic senators say new reporting by The Washington Post about invasions of privacy by U.S. intelligence is "just the tip of a larger iceberg."

The senators made that statement Friday in response to Thursday night's bombshell Washington Post report outlining violations of privacy rules by the National Security Agency.

The Post reported on and published a copy of a top secret internal NSA audit report identifying thousands of "incidents" in which the NSA ran afoul of court orders and other rules governing intelligence collection.

Democratic Sens. Rob Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, both members of the Intelligence Committee, said in a joint statement that there are more details to come:

"The executive branch has now confirmed that the rules, regulations and court-imposed standards for protecting the privacy of Americans have been violated thousands of times each year. We have previously said that the violations of these laws and rules were more serious than had been acknowledged, and we believe Americans should know that this confirmation is just the tip of a larger iceberg.

While Senate rules prohibit us from confirming or denying some of the details in today's press reports, the American people have a right to know more details about the scope and severity of these violations, and we hope that the executive branch will take steps to publicly provide more information as part of the honest, public debate of surveillance authorities that the Administration has said it is interested in having.

In particular, we believe the public deserves to know more about the violations of the secret court orders that have authorized the bulk collection of Americans' phone and email records under the USA PATRIOT Act. The public should also be told more about why the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has said that the executive branch's implementation of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has circumvented the spirit of the law, particularly since the executive branch has declined to address this concern."

Congressional observers noted a portion of the Post's report that said the NSA audit report hadn't been provided to the Senate Intelligence panel before members were contacted by the newspaper for a response.

Such a lack of disclosure would no doubt lead to enhanced scrutiny on Capitol Hill, but in statement Friday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., explained that the committee received information in other formats:

"By law, the Intelligence Committee receives roughly a dozen reports every year on FISA activities, which include information about compliance issues. Some of these reports provide independent analysis by the offices of the inspectors general in the intelligence community. The committee does not receive the same number of official reports on other NSA surveillance activities directed abroad that are conducted pursuant to legal authorities outside of FISA (specifically Executive Order 12333), but I intend to add to the committee’s focus on those activities.

The committee has been notified—and has held briefings and hearings—in cases where there have been significant FISA compliance issues. In all such cases, the incidents have been addressed by ending or adapting the activity."