National News

October 29, 2013

Key senator wants ’total review’ of intel programs

WASHINGTON — Sen. Diane Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Monday called for a “total review of all intelligence programs” following allegations that the National Security Agency eavesdropped on the German chancellor — the latest revelation in a spying scandal that has strained longstanding alliances.

The NSA’s program of spying on the foreign leaders was already damaging relations with some of the closest U.S. allies. German officials said Monday that the U.S. could lose access to an important law enforcement tool used to track terrorist money flows.

As possible leverage, German authorities cited last week’s non-binding resolution by the European Parliament to suspend a post-9/11 agreement allowing the Americans access to bank transfer data to track the flow of terrorist money. A top German official said Monday she believed the Americans were using the information to gather economic intelligence apart from terrorism and that the agreement known as the SWIFT agreement should be suspended.

Feinstein, D-Calif., said while she was not informed about the spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, her committee was informed of the NSA’s collection of phone records under a secret court order. But she said she “was not satisfactorily informed” that “certain surveillance activities have been in effect for more than a decade.”

Her statement follows reports based on new leaks from former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden indicating that the NSA listened to Merkel and 34 other foreign leaders.

“With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of U.S. allies — including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany — let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed,” Feinstein said in her statement Monday. She said the U.S. should not be “collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers” unless in an emergency with approval of the president.

NSC spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden refused to comment on “assertions made in the senator’s statement” about U.S. foreign intelligence activities. Hayden said that the administration is currently reviewing its intelligence priorities, with two separate review bodies looking at how U.S. spying works.

European Union officials who are in Washington to meet with lawmakers ahead of White House talks said U.S. surveillance of their people could affect negotiations over a U.S.-Europe trade agreement. They said European privacy must be better protected.

Many officials in Germany and other European governments have made clear, however, that they don’t favor suspending the U.S.-EU trade talks which began last summer because both sides stand to gain so much through the proposed deal, especially against competition from China and other emerging markets.

As tensions with European allies escalate, the top U.S. intelligence official declassified dozens of pages of top secret documents in an apparent bid to show the NSA was acting legally when it gathered millions of Americans’ phone records.

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said he was following the president’s direction to make public as much information as possible about how U.S. intelligence agencies spy under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Monday’s release of documents focused on Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the bulk collection of U.S. phone records.

The document release is part of an administration-wide effort to preserve the NSA’s ability to collect bulk data, which it says is key to tracking key terror suspects, but which privacy activists say is a breach of the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable search and seizure of evidence from innocent Americans.

The release of the documents comes ahead of a House Intelligence Committee hearing Tuesday on FISA reform.

The documents support administration testimony that the NSA worked to operate within the law and fix errors when they or their systems overreached. One of the documents shows the NSA admitting to the House Intelligence Committee that one of its automated systems picked up too much telephone metadata. The February 2009 document indicates the problem was fixed.

Another set of documents shows the judges of the FISA court seemed satisfied with the NSA’s cooperation. It says that in September 2009, the NSA advised the Senate Intelligence Committee about its continuing collection of Americans’ phone records and described a series of demonstrations and briefings it conducted for three judges on the secretive U.S. spy court. The memorandum said the judges were “engaged throughout and asked questions, which were answered by the briefers and other subject matter experts,” and said the judges appreciated the amount and quality of information the NSA provided.

It said that two days later, one of the judges, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, renewed the court’s permission to resume collecting phone records.

The documents also included previously classified testimony from 2009 for the House Intelligence Committee by Michael Leiter, then head of the National Counterterrorism Center. He and other officials said collecting Americans’ phone records helped indict Najibullah Zazi, who was accused in a previously disclosed 2009 terror plot to bomb the New York City subways.

The documents also show the NSA considered tracking targets using cellphone location data, and according to an April 2011 memo consulted the Justice Department first, which said such collection was legal. Only later did the NSA inform the FISA court of the testing.

NSA commander Gen. Keith Alexander revealed the testing earlier this month to Congress but said the agency did not use the capability to track Americans’ cellphone locations nor deem it necessary right now.

Asked Monday if the NSA intelligence gathering had been used not only to protect national security but American economic interests as well, White House spokesman Jay Carney said: “We do not use our intelligence capabilities for that purpose. We use it for security purposes.”

Still, he acknowledged the tensions with allies over the eavesdropping disclosures and said the White House was “working to allay those concerns,” though he refused to discuss any specific reports or provide details of internal White House discussions.

———

Associated Press writers Ted Bridis and Jack Gillum in Washington, Frank Jordan, Geir Moulson and Robert H. Reid in Berlin, Juergen Baetz in Brussels, Ciaran Giles, Jorge Sainz and Alan Clendenning in Madrid and Sarah DiLorenzo in Paris contributed to this report.

 

1
Text Only
National News
  • Indian film awards arrive in Tampa, Fla., but why?

    The so-called Bollywood Oscars have been held in Macau, Singapore, London — and now, Tampa?

    April 23, 2014

  • Indictment: Prosecutor targeted in kidnapping plot

    A North Carolina prosecutor was the intended target of an elaborate kidnapping plot, but the kidnappers looked up the wrong address on the Internet and abducted the prosecutor’s father instead, according to an indictment released Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014

  • Republican activists push party on gay marriage

    As bans against gay marriage crumble and public opinion on the issue shifts rapidly, some Republicans are pushing the party to drop its opposition to same-sex unions, part of a broader campaign to get the GOP to appeal to younger voters by de-emphasizing social issues.

    April 23, 2014

  • Missouri executes inmate for 1993 farm slaying

    Missouri executed an inmate early Wednesday only a few miles from the farm where prosecutors say he orchestrated the 1993 killing of a couple whose cows he wanted to steal.

    April 23, 2014

  • 10 Things to Know for Wednesday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday.

    April 22, 2014

  • A bipolar doctor probes the brain on 'Black Box’

    ABC’s brainy new medical drama “Black Box” does a neat trick: It dares viewers to imagine for themselves the cost-benefit ratio of addiction, and does it without taking a firm stand.

    April 22, 2014

  • Courthouse violence unpredictable despite security

    When Utah’s new federal courthouse opened last week, it came with security improvements that are becoming standard around the country: separate entrances and elevators for judges, defendants and the public; bullet-resistant glass and paneling; and vehicle barricades to keep car bombs at bay.

    April 22, 2014

  • Lucey is tops in Iowa’s ‘Beautiful Bulldog’ event

    Lucey is a slobbering 18-month-old pooch whose human family dreams of making her a therapy dog.

    April 22, 2014

  • Cuban-American leaders helped ’Cuban Twitter’

    Leaders with the largest nonprofit organization for young Cuban-Americans quietly provided strategic support for the federal government’s secret “Cuban Twitter” program, connecting contractors with potential investors and even serving as paid consultants, The Associated Press has learned.

    April 22, 2014

  • 10 Things to Know for Tuesday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday:

    April 22, 2014