Late-night comedians continue to make jokes about the U.S. government spying on its own people — our phone calls, our emails and our internet history — but Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says it’s no laughing matter. Grassley is among a bipartisan group of senators, all members of the Judiciary Committee, who are calling for an in-depth investigation of exactly where the government has stuck its nose.
Grassley says, “We’re asking the inspector general for the intelligence community to conduct a full-scale review of the use of surveillance authority in 2010 through 2013 and report its findings.” Following the enactment of the Patriot Act after the September 11th terrorist attacks of 2001, critics say the government’s domestic intelligence-gathering efforts have gotten far out of hand.
Oversight by Congress plays an important role in evaluating the wisdom and value of the programs, Grassley says, including making sure they’re conducted as intended. “We have a constitutional duty of the Congress to protect Americans’ privacy,” Grassley says. “We also have a constitutional responsibility to ensure the government provides for a strong national defense. That’s quite a balancing act.”
Grassley, a Republican, notes the office of the inspector general for the intelligence community was created in 2010 for one primary purpose — accountability. “Intelligence-gathering is necessary and it’s very vital for our defense,” Grassley says. “There’s a difficult and sensitive balance then to strike between privacy and security.” He says this request for a full-scale probe is part of Congress’ continued oversight and checks and balances.