Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said NSA surveillance should be overhauled if a higher court finds that the collection of metadata violates the Fourth Amendment, but believes that precedent could work in the spy agency’s favor.
The Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman noted on MSNBC that last month there was a hearing regarding a person providing financial and other support to Al-Shabaab in the Southern District of California in which the judge found that the 215 surveillance under the Patriot Act was constitutional.
“And the point of issue was specifically that. So you have one case a month ago, which has not been reported on, that I’ve seen, and you have the case of a few days ago, which has been reported on extensively,” Feinstein said.
“Now, what does this all mean? This means that, clearly, it’s going to go up on appeal and go to the Supreme Court. And I very much would urge the court to take the case, because the case of Smith v. Maryland, which said there is no right, under the Fourth Amendment to an individual for — to protect this kind of data — was issued in 1979. That’s over 30 years ago. And the situation has changed then. So has the need for this.”
Feinstein said she’s “very eager” to see the high court take the case of the surveillance program’s constitutionality.
“And if they wish to throw out the old case, they will do it. If they wish to change it, they will do it. If they sustain the government’s position, they will do that. And we will know once and for all,” she said.
“It is my belief that we live in a world with serious jeopardy to this nation. And those of us on the Intelligence Committee see this frequently. Therefore, this program, in conjunction with other programs, helps keep this nation safe. I’m not saying it’s indispensable. But I’m saying that it is important and it is a major tool in ferreting out a potential terrorist attack.”
The chairwoman said the D.C. District judge who handed down yesterday’s ruling was “wrong” when he said there have been no instances of the surveillance programs stopping an attack.
“I think those instances have been belittled, by and large. There are some 54 instances worldwide. A lot of the information went to countries in Europe, of potential terrorist attacks. There are some in this country, Najibullah Zazi, the case I just mentioned, which was material support to Al-Shabaab, a Somali terrorist group. the man was convicted. The case was brought. The constitutionality of this particular program was sustained,” she said.
“Now, if people really want us to shove aside a potential method of protection and the court says it is not constitutional, that does it. That’s the end. None of us will defy the constitutionality issue,” Feinstein added. “But what many of us want to do is do what’s necessary, within the law, to keep our nation as safe as we possibly can.”