Following news accounts of how the government has been collecting and storing millions of phone call records, e-mail messages, and other forms of electronic communications every day, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence committee said Thursday greater protections are needed — for the government.
Following a closed-door meeting of senators with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Director of the National Security Agency General Keith Alexander, Committee Chairman Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif., shown) said legislation would be introduced to limit access that private contractors have to the nation's intelligence programs.
"We will certainly have legislation which will limit or prevent contractors from handling highly classified and technical data, and we will do some other things," Feinstein said. Contractor access has become a major issue concerning government surveillance activity since Edward Snowden announced he was the one who gave classified documents exposing the NSA telephone monitoring and Internet search program called PRISM to the Washington Post and to the British publication The Guardian. Snowden, who fled from his home in Hawaii to Hong Kong to avoid arrest and prosecution, was an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, a private tech company that has contracts with the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, in addition to the NSA. Private contractors supply much of the technological skill and infrastructure for the data-gathering and analysis programs, however, and it's not clear how the 483,263 contractors with "top secret" security clearance would be able to work with the 791,000 government employees with that same clearance if their access to the secrets were limited. About a half-million other contractors held lower-level secret and confidential clearances, the New York Times reported.
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Photo of Sen. Dianne Feinstein: AP Images