Feinstein ‘totally opposed’ to spying on foreign leaders

October 28, 2013
Senator Dianne Feinstein works on Capitol Hill on Thursday June 20, 2013. She meets with Senator Alexander, the ranking member on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, of which Senator Feinstein is chairman. They are pictured in Feinstein's office. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee sharply rebuked the Obama administration and U.S. spy agencies Monday for spying on the leaders of top European allies.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a sharply worded statement that "a total review of all intelligence programs is necessary" so that lawmakers "are fully informed as to what is actually being carried out" by the nation's spy agencies.

“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. Therefore our oversight needs to be strengthened and increased," Feinstein said.  “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 that unless the U.S. is engaged in hostilities or there's an "emergency need" for surveillance, then the country shouldn't be "collecting phone calls and e-mails of friendly president and prime ministers" without presidential approval.

Feinstein has been a vocal and frequent defender of the National Security Agency and other counterterrorism programs in the wake of revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. But her statement Monday puts her at odds with the administration and her House counterpart, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee and defended the administration's spy programs Sunday.

Rogers told CNN's "State of the Union" that news outlets have misrepresented snooping efforts overseas, while Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a senior member of the House intelligence panel, said that intelligence on foreign leaders helps "gather valuable intelligence which helps not just us but also helps the Europeans."

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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Aaron Blake | October 28, 2013