“Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither”. Benjamin Franklin
WASHINGTON — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a staunch defender of government surveillance of ordinary citizens, took to the Senate floor Tuesday with the stunning accusation that the Central Intelligence Agency may have violated federal law to spy on Congress.
Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, railed against the CIA for compromising the legislative branch’s oversight role — a theme echoed by many of her Senate colleagues throughout the day. The outrage was palpable among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and some suggested CIA Director John Brennan should resign if the allegations are true. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has stuck up for intelligence agencies in the past, declared a potential war.
“This is Richard Nixon stuff,” Graham told reporters. “This is dangerous to the democracy. Heads should roll, people should go to jail if it’s true. If it is, the legislative branch should declare war on the CIA.”
When former contractor Edward Snowden revealed last year that the National Security Agency was secretly collecting phone and electronic records from millions of ordinary Americans, the response in Congress was far more muted. Top senators insisted the surveillance was critical to U.S. counterterrorism activities.
“It’s called protecting America,” Feinstein said then. Graham said he was glad Verizon was turning over customer records to the government to ensure that his phone was not linked to any terrorist activity.
It was not until reports that the NSA had spied on foreign leaders and allies, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that Feinstein offered criticism of the agency’s surveillance.