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Shaheen, Ayotte support comprehensive review of National Security Agency's spying programs

Senior Political Reporter

October 29. 2013 5:28PM

New Hampshire Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte on Tuesday backed a prominent Democrat's call for a full-scale review of the National Security Agency's surveillance programs after it was revealed that President Barack Obama was unaware the NSA was targeting allies.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Cal., chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, strongly criticized the NSA monitoring the calls of friendly world leaders such as German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Democrat Shaheen voiced support for the review, saying, "The NSA's reported collection of intelligence on foreign leaders who are our closest allies raises serious questions that the agency must answer. As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I fear this type of activity damages our bilateral relationships when we ought to be strengthening them."

Republican Ayotte said, "It's troubling that the President was reportedly unaware of U.S. intelligence-gathering operations involving other world leaders, and I support a thorough review of U.S. intelligence programs by the Senate Intelligence Committee."

Feinstein, on Capitol Hill Monday, said, "It is abundantly clear that a total review of all intelligence programs is necessary so that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are fully informed as to what is actually being carried out by the intelligence community.

"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," she said.

"With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of US allies – including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany – let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed."

Feinstein said Obama "was not aware" the German leader's "communications were being collected since 2002. That is a big problem."

Obama this week said he was "initiating a review to make sure that what (the intelligence agency is -- able to do doesn't necessarily mean what they should be doing."

On Tuesday, NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander defended the agency's spying programs, saying, "It is much more important for this country that we defend this nation and take the beatings than it is to give up a program that would result in this nation being attacked."

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