Feinstein: NSA hasn’t ‘intentionally abused its authority’

August 16, 2013
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., left, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., right, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, prepare for a hearing with FBI Director Robert Mueller, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 19, 2013. As Mueller nears the end of his 12 years as head of the law enforcement agency, the committee questioned him about the IRS, surveillance activities, and the Boston Marathon bombing. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Capitol Hill on June 19, 2013. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) defended the National Security Agency's surveillance programs Friday, saying that she has never come across an example of the NSA deliberately abusing its powers.

Feinstein released a statement in response to a Washington Post report detailing thousands of privacy violations committed by the NSA every year.

"As I have said previously, the committee has never identified an instance in which the NSA has intentionally abused its authority to conduct surveillance for inappropriate purposes," Feinstein said.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, echoed Feinstein, saying he has seen "no intentional and willful violation of the law."

"Human and technical errors, like all of the errors reported in this story, are unfortunately inevitable in any organization and especially in a highly technical and complicated system like NSA," Rogers said. "The Committee will continue to work with the executive branch to reduce these errors.”

Many of the violations revealed by The Post were typographical in nature and unintended, but some were significant violations of the law.

Feinstein said the vast majority of the violations involved surveillance of a foreign national who happened to enter the United States without the NSA's knowledge.

"The NSA generally won’t know that the person has traveled to the United States," she said. "The majority of these ‘compliance incidents’ are, therefore, unintentional and do not involve any inappropriate surveillance of Americans."

While defending the NSA's motives, Feinstein said her committee should work to provide more oversight to make sure Americans have confidence in the programs

“I believe, however, that the committee can and should do more to independently verify that the NSA’s operations are appropriate, and its reports of compliance incidents are accurate," she said. "This should include more routine trips to NSA by committee staff and committee hearings at which all compliance issues can be fully discussed.”

Updated at 4:51 p.m. with Rogers's comments.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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