When the NSA went too far for Feinstein

The vociferous supporter of mass surveillance draws her line at phone-tapping ally leaders

By Natasha Lennard

Published October 29, 2013 12:45PM (EDT)

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has been a fierce defender of the National Security Agency's sprawling dragnet surveillance programs, writing and speaking in support of the programs that regularly hoard metadata on emails and calls of millions of U.S. citizens.

This week's revelations from Edward Snowden's leaks -- which showed the U.S. government to be spying on at least 35 world leaders calls, including having phone-tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- were, however, a step too far for the senator.

Feinstein is now calling for a "total review" of every NSA surveillance program, decrying the fact that Congress and key administration officials have been kept in the dark about spying practices, revealed only by Snowden's leaks, which carry significant consequences for international diplomacy.

The Guardian reported on Feinstein's "dramatic intervention," delivered via press statement. In it, the California Democrat reiterated her support for mass communications spy dragnets, but drew a line on the surveillance of ally world leaders:

"It is abundantly clear that a total review of all intelligence programs is necessary so that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are fully informed as to what is actually being carried out by the intelligence community," Feinstein said in a statement to reporters.

"Unlike NSA's collection of phone records under a court order, it is clear to me that certain surveillance activities have been in effect for more than a decade and that the Senate Intelligence Committee was not satisfactorily informed.

"With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of US allies – including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany – let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed," she said.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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