October 10, 2008 -- A Senate panel is probing claims top secret government workers eavesdropped on communications from American service members, journalists and aid workers overseas.
Announcing the probe, Senate intelligence committee chair Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) called the allegations, made on ABC News, "extremely disturbing."
House intelligence committee chair Silvestre Reyes is also looking for answers from the National Security Agency (NSA) about its apparent violations of Americans' privacy. "The NSA let us know that your story may be coming down the pipeline," a spokeswoman for Reyes told ABC News Thursday. "We went ahead and made an inquiry and have been in contact with NSA We're awaiting further information."
Off of Capitol Hill, reaction was swift and sharp to the news that U.S. intelligence officials listened in to hundreds of private conversations, including pillow talk between U.S. military officers and their spouses.
"This outrageous episode is a reminder that government spying powers can be used to invade the most intimate thoughts of even the most trustworthy people," noted Lisa Graves of the Center for National Security Studies, and a former Justice Department official.
"Today's report is an indictment not only of the Bush administration, but of all of those political leaders, Democratic and Republican, who have been saying that the executive branch can be trusted with surveillance powers that are essentially unchecked," charged Jameel Jaffer, director of the national security program at the American Civil Liberties Union.
"When they say trust us, we're not listening in on Americans – this shows that they are," said Jennifer Granick of the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Her group is suing the federal government to stop warrantless eavesdropping programs and hold government officials accountable. "This should be of concern to everybody."