Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein says Congress will likely consider legislation to limit access that private contractors have to the nation's sensitive intelligence program, according to The New York Times
"We will certainly have legislation which will limit or prevent contractors from handling highly classified and technical data, and we will do some other things," the California Democrat said after a classified Senate briefing Thursday.
Feinstein, one of the most vocal defenders of the National Security Agency's phone and Internet surveillance programs, said Monday the NSA would be releasing more information about terror attacks that its efforts had thwarted.
The NSA's programs were leaked to The Washington Post and Britain's The Guardian newspaper by Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old computer systems administrator for Booz Allen Hamilton, a private firm that administers sensitive programs for the NSA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the CIA.
A limit on contractors would require intelligence agencies to hire more staff, rather than outsource their work, which Sen. John McCain said would create a double standard.
"A few weeks ago we were all complaining that we didn't have enough information about those kids in Boston and we needed broader intelligence sharing," the Arizona Republican said Thursday. "Now we say we want to clamp down on how the information moves."
Intelligence officials say that limiting contractors' roles would be difficult to do, because often, the contractors are the "innovative force" behind the computer systems they are running.
"These are not just operators sitting at some computer console," a senior official told the Times. "Oftentimes, the contractors develop the systems that they are running; they are frequently the innovative force. You want to think twice before you terminate that."
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