U.S. intelligence officials said Thursday that they have added safeguards to prevent the government from unlawfully spying on U.S. citizens after a routine check of the system “detected issues that raised concerns.”
Intelligence officials declined to specify the nature of the problem. But in a prepared statement, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said that on occasion, the National Security Agency “has made mistakes and intercepted the wrong communications.”
Officials characterized the wrongful intercepts as inadvertent and not nefarious. But some lawmakers said the matter reveals holes in the systems Congress established last year to ensure that the country’s vast intelligence gathering bureaucracy would not be used unconstitutionally to collect information about U.S. citizens.
“These are serious allegations, and we will make sure we get the facts,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Feinstein said she will hold a hearing on the matter.
Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, said Congress needs to fix several post-September 11th laws that “have eroded the privacy and civil liberties of law-abiding citizens.”
At issue is the activities of the National Security Agency, which collects “signals” intelligence, typically international telecommunications and e-mails.
In his statement, Blair said the NSA goes to great lengths to ensure the privacy and civil liberties of U.S. citizens but has made occasional mistakes.
Who did they mistakenly spy on? The FBI? The CIA? Political candidates? Company executives? Hollywood celebrities?