Two Dems Warn NSA Violations Just 'Tip of a Larger Iceberg'

“As I have said previously, the committee has never identified an instance in which the NSA has intentionally abused its authority to conduct surveillance for inappropriate purposes," Feinstein continued. “I believe, however, that the committee can and should do more to independently verify that NSA’s operations are appropriate, and its reports of compliance incidents are accurate. This should include more routine trips to NSA by committee staff and committee hearings at which all compliance issues can be fully discussed.”

Both Feinstein and Rogers said they were aware of previous failings.

"The Committee has been apprised of previous incidents, takes seriously each one, and uses the oversight and compliance regime to provide us insight into these operations and whether further adjustments must be made. The Committee does not tolerate any intentional violation of the law," Rogers said. "Human and technical errors, like all of the errors reported in this story, are unfortunately inevitable in any organization and especially in a highly technical and complicated system like NSA."

“By law, the Intelligence Committee receives roughly a dozen reports every year on FISA activities, which include information about compliance issues. Some of these reports provide independent analysis by the offices of the inspectors general in the intelligence community. The committee does not receive the same number of official reports on other NSA surveillance activities directed abroad that are conducted pursuant to legal authorities outside of FISA (specifically Executive Order 12333), but I intend to add to the committee’s focus on those activities," Feinstein said.

“The committee has been notified—and has held briefings and hearings—in cases where there have been significant FISA compliance issues. In all such cases, the incidents have been addressed by ending or adapting the activity," she added.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) announced today that he would hold a hearing on the reports to "continue to demand honest and forthright answers from the intelligence community. "

"The American people rely on the intelligence community to provide forthright and complete information so that Congress and the courts can properly conduct oversight.  I remain concerned that we are still not getting straightforward answers from the NSA," Leahy said. "…Using advanced surveillance technologies in secret demands close oversight and appropriate checks and balances, and the American people deserve no less than that."

The only administration response to the latest revelations came in an interview State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki gave to MSNBC today, where she was asked about the president's claim last week that "what you're not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs and, you know, listening in on people's phone calls or inappropriately reading people's e-mails."

"Remember that these programs are done with the goal of keeping the American people safe, also keeping people around the world safe. These are programs that many countries also participate in, many countries work with the United States on. And that is one of the top priorities when you're the commander in chief," said Psaki, who served as traveling press secretary on Obama's 2012 campaign.

"So that is why these programs are in place. But, again, you heard the president talk about the importance of being open and transparent with the American people, and I know that that is something that is being reviewed and discussed internally we speak," she added.

Meanwhile, the administration continued a charm offensive of sorts to convince Americans that they're as transparent as can be as Alex Jole, civil liberties protection officer for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, wrote a simplistic first-person, day-in-the-life-style op-ed for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

"Explaining to the public how all of this comes together is important, but is hard to do because it involves sensitive information that adversaries could exploit to avoid detection. By definition, most intelligence work can't be done openly. A fully transparent intelligence service, after all, could not be an effective one," Joel wrote.

"It's human nature for such secrecy to fuel suspicion and mistrust. People assume that when someone hides something, it's because he's doing something wrong. This natural suspicion is evident in the concerns about two programs that were recently disclosed."

Joel proceeded to explain vast telephone metadata collection and surveillance on the communications of foreign targets outside the U.S.

"Some people question whether people who work for the government can be trusted. In my experience, intelligence professionals - and those overseeing them - are profoundly committed to the oath they take to support and defend the Constitution. People inside government have questions and concerns just like everyone else," he wrote. "It's my job to raise civil liberties and privacy issues about intelligence activities, and I do."

A Washington Post-ABC News poll taken before the latest report found 70 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans agreeing that the NSA programs intrude on privacy rights. Fifty-two percent of GOPs and 51 percent of Dems said the mass surveillance is not justified.

UPDATE: White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest released a statement saying the audit report is the result of Obama's "long" advocacy for transparency at the NSA. "This Administration is committed to ensuring that privacy protections are carefully adhered to, and to continually reviewing ways to effectively enhance privacy procedures," Earnest said.