Senators expressed concern last Wednesday that the Obama administration's efforts to closely monitor individuals with security clearances may violate the doctrine of separation of powers.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican Charles Grassley of Iowa have asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to clarify what is meant by a new policy of "continuous evaluation" of those with security clearances.
They want to know if Clapper believes it is legal for his agency to continuously monitor legislators.
"Especially in light of recent events, we first ask that you confirm that you did not intend to suggest that Members of Congress or staff members of the Legislative Branch would be subject to continuous evaluation," the senators wrote to Clapper.
The story said one of the "recent events" was the charge by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that the Central Intelligence Agency searched through computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee. That committee had been investigating the CIA's interrogation program.
CIA Director John Brennan denied his agency had hacked into the committee's computers. The Justice Department is now reviewing the charge.
The new policy is designed to forestall further national security disclosures like those made by Edward Snowden.
The two senators also asked if such "continuous evaluation" might cause employees of agencies to remain silent rather than report wrongdoing. The administration contends it does not want to silence whistleblowers but Wyden and Grassley believe the new policy may do just that.
Clapper disclosed "continuous evaluation" in testimony at hearings last February. Apparently that testimony has not assuaged fears by senators that our intelligence agencies may be collecting too much data on individuals - including legislators.
Just the term "continuous evaluation" sounds like a threat to us. Big Brother is constantly watching.
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