Sen. Dianne Feinstein, one of the most stalwart defenders of the intelligence community, said Friday she is now “open to changes” to how the government collects and stores the phone records of millions of Americans.
The shift from the powerful chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee arrives a week ahead of a March 28 deadline that President Obama gave his administration to deliver alternatives to him on how the National Security Agency operates one of its most controversial programs, the bulk collection of phone “metadata.”
“If there are alternatives that preserve the operational effectiveness of the call records program and can address privacy concerns, I am certainly open to changes,” Feinstein said in a statement.
The intelligence community and the Justice Department have a deadline of next Friday to deliver their recommendations to Obama on how to implement NSA surveillance reforms that the president outlined during a policy speech in January.
Feinstein said she was looking forward to hearing those recommendations. But the California Democrat also made it clear that she continues to support the collection of such records as authorized under the controversial provision of the post-9/11 Patriot Act known as Section 215, which both the Bush and Obama administrations have used to justify carte blanche collection of domestic phone records.
Such surveillance “plays an important role in detecting and preventing terrorist attacks against the United States,” Feinstein said.
Still, Feinstein’s declaration that she is “open to changes,” although nuanced, marks a change from one of the NSA’s most steadfast allies in Congress, who last year introduced a bill that would largely codify the agency’s existing surveillance authorities. Feinstein is now signaling that she is open to the president’s recommendation to either shift the storage of metadata records from the government to private phone companies, from which the government could request such records on an as-needed basis, or to task some hypothetical third party with the responsibility of storing these records.
Feinstein made enormous waves last week when she took to the Senate floor to accuse the CIA of possibly violating the Constitution. She lacerated the agency for accessing in January computer files used by staffers of her Senate committee to review the agency’s now-defunct foreign interrogation practices, which included waterboarding.
The NSA’s database of phone metadata includes phone numbers, call times, and call durations but not the content of conversations. The program came under intense scrutiny from privacy and civil-liberty groups after it was first disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last June.
What We're Following See More »
"A federal appeals court's decision that declared the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau an arm of the White House relies on a novel interpretation of the constitution's separation of powers clause that could have broader effects on how other regulators" like the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
"According to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, the first national post-debate survey, 43 percent of registered voters said the Democratic candidate won, compared with 26 percent who opted for the Republican Party’s standard bearer. Her 6-point lead over Trump among likely voters is unchanged from our previous survey: Clinton still leads Trump 42 percent to 36 percent in the race for the White House, with Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson taking 9 percent of the vote."
Twitter bots, "automated social media accounts that interact with other users," accounted for a large part of the online discussion during the first presidential debate. Bots made up 22 percent of conversation about Hillary Clinton on the social media platform, and a whopping one third of Twitter conversation about Donald Trump.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the nonprofit that published the Panama Papers earlier this year, is being spun off from its parent organization, the Center for Public Integrity. According to a statement, "CPI’s Board of Directors has decided that enabling the ICIJ to chart its own course will help both journalistic teams build on the massive impact they have had as one organization."
According to a new report, the Environmental Protection Agency waited too long before informing the residents of Flint, Mich. that their water was contaminated with lead. Written by the EPA's inspector general, it places blame squarely at the foot of the agency itself, saying it had enough information by June 2015 to issue an emergency order. However, the order wasn't issued until the end of January 2016.