New Washington Post stories that show the National Security Agency broke privacy rules thousands of times a year have alarmed a number of congressional Democrats who called Friday for more oversight.
"Reports that the NSA repeatedly overstepped its legal boundaries, broke privacy regulations, and attempted to shield required disclosure of violations are outrageous, inappropriate and must be addressed," said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., a senior member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. "These reports, if accurate, highlight the need for aggressive oversight of the NSA’s intelligence gathering activities."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, in a statement called the relevations "extremely disturbing" and said current laws governing the agency's collection activities "contain safeguards to ensure the protection of privacy and civil liberties including provisions that require that incidents of non-compliance be reported to Congress and the FISA Court."
"Congress must conduct rigorous oversight to ensure that all incidents of non-compliance are reported to the oversight committees and the FISA court in a timely and comprehensive manner, and that appropriate steps are taken to ensure violations are not repeated," Pelosi said.
The stories, which the Post says were based on documents provided earlier this summer by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, "include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance."
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, who had proposed mandating an inspector general audit, said he'd call for another Judiciary Committee hearing on the surveillence program.
"The American people rely on the intelligence community to provide forthright and complete information so that Congress and the courts can properly conduct oversight," Leahy said. "I remain concerned that we are still not getting straightforward answers from the NSA."
He added, "Using advanced surveillance technologies in secret demands close oversight and appropriate checks and balances, and the American people deserve no less than that."