The U.S. Congress has launched an investigation to find out if the National Security Agency (NSA) spied on the legislature’s members.
The investigation follows media claims that the NSA illegally listened in on conversations between Congressmen and senior Israeli politicians. The claims say the spying occurred when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his advisors were discussing the Iran nuclear power program deal.
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) says, “The House Intelligence Committee is looking into allegations in the Wall Street Journal regarding possible Intelligence Community (IC) collection of communications between Israeli government officials and Members of Congress. The Committee has requested additional information from the IC to determine which, if any, of these allegations are true, and whether the IC followed all applicable laws, rules, and procedures.”
Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, and three other members of the committee have sent a letter to NSA boss Admiral Mike Rogers, demanding that all documents relating to the case be handed over to Congress by January 13, and alerting him a full hearing will be held into the allegations on January 15.
Chaffetz is no fan of surveillance and previously has sponsored legislation to ban the use of geolocation data on smartphones without a warrant.
The media claims the NSA spying occurred during and after 2011, when the White House was worried Israel would launch an attack on Iran production facilities without warning. Some U.S. officials are saying President Obama saw a “compelling national security purpose,” and allowed the NSA to “monitor” communications of Benjamin Netanyahu and senior advisors.
Allegedly, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers on the congressional intelligence committees signed off on the “monitoring”, although sources in the administration claim the NSA was asked to make sure no unlawful information was passed over.
Part of the intelligence gathered from the “monitoring” revealed Israeli officials were working with Jewish-American groups to lobby Congressmen not to OK a nuclear deal with Iran. The agency reported that Israeli government officials leaked confidential data to pitch lawmakers for their case.
Spying on elected U.S. lawmakers is meant to be a no-no for the NSA, even though the agency does not deny it happens. Spying on foreign leaders appears to be routine, although not always official, as documents leaked by Edward Snowden show.