The Democratic chairman and the ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee have opened a second Congressional investigation into the ABC News report that US intelligence personnel eavesdropped, recorded and stored the private, personal phone calls of American journalists, aid workers and soldiers serving in Iraq.
Separately, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), has ordered his staff to begin its own investigation.
The allegations came from two former military intelligence intercept operators and translators, Adrienne Kinne, an Arab linguist for the US Army, and David Murfee Faulk, an Arab linguist for the US Navy. Both were detailed to work at a giant listening post run by the National Security Agency, the NSA, at Fort Gordon, outside Augusta, Georgia.
Kinne said "hundreds of everyday Americans" had their private conversations intercepted. Faulk said phone calls that included "phone sex and pillow talk" were often passed around the NSA facility as a sort of amusement for the operators working there.
In a joint statement, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) said they wanted a full investigation.
"Such interceptions, and orders to continue transcribing them when minimization should have resulted, appear to violate" Presidential executive orders and NSA guidelines, the two Senators said in a statement.
Kinne and Faulk told ABC News they were instructed to keep recording calls from Americans to Americans even after determining the conversations were private in nature. Kinne said "we could have blocked the calls from future" eavesdropping "but were told not to."
The Senators also raised the issue that NSA and military officials may have misled, lied or covered-up earlier, similar allegations.
Leahy said Kinne, who now works at a Veterans Administration facility in Vermont, had privately provided the allegations to his staff more than a year ago and that he asked the Department of Defense Inspector General to investigate.
The allegations were passed on to the Inspector General at the NSA and resulted in no action.
Kinne told ABC News she was never interviewed by the NSA Inspector General and Leahy's staff says that shortcoming "speak volumes" about the quality of the NSA internal investigation.
Leahy and Specter also raised questions about the truthfulness of government witnesses before their committee who were asked about eavesdropping on US military personnel.
"Government witnesses denied that the personal communications of U.S. soldiers in Iraq were being targeted for collection," the Senators said.
Following the ABC News report, the NSA said some of the allegations were now under active investigation. Its spokesman said other allegations "were determined to be unfounded" without specifying which allegations.
A spokesman for the then-director of the NSA, Gen. Michael Hayden, now the CIA director, said the NSA "assiduously followed the law."
In their joint statement, Leahy and Specter said they wanted "a vigorous investigation" of the allegations made by the two former intercept operators, a report on any violations that may be found, and "written assurances that any ill-gotten collection is being destroyed and purged from government data bases."