House Intel Panel Looking into Report NSA Spying Netted Lawmakers

Posted December 30, 2015 at 7:31pm

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is looking into allegations that the National Security Agency vacuumed up communications between Israeli officials and members of Congress, the panel’s chairman said Wednesday.

Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said the committee has asked for additional information from the intelligence community “to determine which, if any, of these allegations are true, and whether the IC [intelligence community] followed all applicable laws, rules, and procedures.”

Nunes’ statement comes after a story in the Wall Street Journal alleged that the NSA scooped up conversations between U.S. lawmakers and Israeli officials when the agency was spying on Israeli leaders. The newspaper said conversations with American-Jewish groups were also intercepted.

The Director of National Intelligence’s office did not immediately reply to a CQ request for comment.

The Journal’s report alleges that the Obama administration kept Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a list of U.S. allied leaders that the NSA could continue to target for eavesdropping.

It says the NSA’s targeting of Netanyahu and other Israeli officials revealed how the prime minister and his aides tried to undermine U.S.-led talks with Iran over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.

The chairman of the Senate’s intelligence panel, Richard M. Burr, did not directly comment on the report itself but said in a statement that his panel conducts “vigorous oversight” of the intelligence agencies’ actions “to ensure that they are lawful and appropriate, and that all policies and procedures are followed.” The North Carolina Republican said that “allegations of wrongdoing…are always taken seriously by this committee.”

A junior member of the panel, Sen. Marco Rubio, tried to use the report to take a swipe at the Obama administration and U.S. relations with Israel, saying the public has “a right to be concerned about the fact that while some leaders around the world are no longer being targeted, one of our strongest allies in the Middle East—Israel—is.”

“I actually think it might be worse than what some people might think, but this is an issue that we’ll keep a close eye on,” the Florida Republican and presidential candidate said on Fox & Friends.

Late Wednesday, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and National Security Subcommittee Chairman Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., called on the NSA to disclose details and brief lawmakers on the allegations in the newspaper report.