Sen. Feinstein Defends NSA Spying as 'Major Tool' to Stop 'Terrorists'

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Common Dreams

Sen. Feinstein Defends NSA Spying as 'Major Tool' to Stop 'Terrorists'

Issues defense following groundbreaking ruling by federal judge that the NSA's bulk collection of phone data "almost certainly" violates constitution

by
Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Just one day after a federal judge ruled that the NSA's bulk collection of phone data "almost certainly" violates the U.S. Constitution, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) publicly defended the spying program as a "major tool in ferreting out a potential terrorist attack."

Appearing Tuesday in an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, the Democratic Party powerhouse and Senate Intelligence Committee Chair stated, “It is my belief we live in a world with serious jeopardy to this nation. And those of us on the intelligence committee see this frequently. Therefore, this program, in conjunction with other programs, helps keep this nation safe."

“I’m not saying it’s indispensable,” Feinstein said of the spying. “But I’m saying it is important."

In the interview, as well as a statement released by Feinstein on Tuesday, the senator asserted her support for the program while calling for the Supreme Court to review its constitutionality. She emphasized other federal cases in which the spying was ruled constitutional in what appeared to be a bid to cast doubt on Monday's ruling.

“Only the Supreme Court can resolve the question on the constitutionality of the NSA’s program," asserted Feinstein in her official statement.

“Those of us who support the call records program do so with a sincere belief that it, along with other programs, is constitutional and helps keep the country safe from attack," she added.

Feinstein's statements counter the ruling of U.S. District Judge Judge Richard Leon, who found Monday that NSA spying on nearly every call made within or to the United States violates the Fourth Amendment's ban on unlawful searches and seizures and does not demonstrate any provable role in protecting from "terrorist" attacks.

“I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval," wrote Leon in a 68-page statement released Monday.

While Leon's ruling will not be immediately implemented, pending a government appeal, it constitutes the first successful legal challenge to NSA spying and is being widely vaunted as a potentially pivotal challenge.

Feinstein has been a fervent defender of NSA spying, despite its vast unpopularity and rolling scandals across the globe.

She is currently championing a bill that would expand NSA powers to mass collect phone data—legislation that stands in direct competition to legislative efforts to reign in NSA spying.

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