The National Security Agency is having a very bad day: two of the most ardent surveillance hawks have officially turned against the spying agency. California Senator Dianne Feinstein broke ranks and came out against the NSA spying on foreign leaders. Even worse, the author of the Patriot Act, Jim Sensenbrenner, dropped a co-authored bill to end bulk collection of Internet and telephone data.
“We’re really screwed now,” one NSA official told Foreign Policy’s The Cable. “You know things are bad when the few friends you’ve got disappear without a trace in the dead of night and leave no forwarding address.”
Feinstein had been the most public defender of the NSA’s massive surveillance practices, until German Chancellor Angela Merkel freaked out over the fact that the U.S. had maintained a secret spy hub in the embassy.
“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,” she declared. President Obama, who was reportedly unaware of the practice, is considering a ban on surveillance of allies, according to The New York Times.
This comes on the heels of a House of Representatives version of a Senate reform package to stop bulk collection of records and provide more transparency to members of Congress. Most notably, the co-author also wrote the Patriot Act, the legal foundation for most of the NSA controversial spy practices. It dropped with strong support — 70 members in the House.
Combined, these are very good signs that some sort of reform is coming.