Specter and McCain Call for Investigation of NSA Spying
To the surprise of perhaps no one, Senators Arlen Specter and John McCain have jumped on this morning’s reports of NSA spying within the United States as another opportunity to grab the limelight.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter put the Bush administration on notice Friday that his panel would hold hearings into a report that the National Security Agency eavesdropped without warrants on people inside the United States. “There is no doubt that this is inappropriate,” said Specter, R-Pa., calling hearings early next year “a very, very high priority.” He wasn’t alone in reacting harshly to the report. Sen. John McCain R-Ariz., said the story, first reported in Friday’s New York Times, was troubling.
“This is Big Brother run amok,” declared Sen. Edward Kennedy (news, bio, voting record), D-Mass. Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., called it a “shocking revelation” that “ought to send a chill down the spine of every senator and every American.”
But, as the NYT story made clear, the Senate has long ago been apprised of the practice. Even Democrats like Jay Rockefeller knew about it. Indeed, the AP brings this up several paragraphs into the story:
The administration had briefed congressional leaders about the NSA program and notified the judge in charge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret Washington court that handles national security issues. Aides to National Intelligence Director John Negroponte and West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, declined to comment Thursday night.
So, if this was “inappropriate,” “troubling,” and “shocking,” why wait until it hits the front page of the Times to say something about it? Couldn’t they have held private hearings on this a year ago?
Update: An informed source e-mails and DC Loser comments below taking me to task for writing “the Senate has long ago been apprised of the practice” when, in fact, all I know for sure is that the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had been apprised. A fair point. I was operating on the presumption, perhaps incorrect, that the leadership of the Judiciary Committe, which would have oversight responsibility on FISA, and the Armed Services Committee, which has oversight over NSA, would have been similarly briefed.