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US Intelligence head slams NSA PRISM monitoring

Strong Prism defender changes sides after Merkel revelations.

Dianne Feinstein, the head of the US Senate intelligence committee, has switched sides on the National Security Agency (NSA) spying scandal, calling for a total surveillance review.

Feinstein had been one of the NSA's strongest supporters in the face of criticism over reports it monitored internet and telephone communications as part of an operation known as Prism.

She had been quoted as saying the mass collection of data did not constitute surveillance, as "it does not collect the content of any communication, nor do the records include names or locations".

However, allegations that the agency has been spying on leaders of allied countries has prompted an about face on Feinstein's part.

"Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers," Feinstein said in a statement. 

"With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of US allies including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed."

Feinstein also said it was "abundantly clear that a total review of all intelligence programs is necessary".

In relation to the most recent revelations, that German chancellor Angela Merkel may have had her phone monitored by the NSA for over 10 years, Feinstein claimed US president Barack Obama had no knowledge of the agency's actions.

She also said she had received assurances monitoring would not continue.

On the morning of Tuesday 29 October, in the US, the author of the 2001 Patriot Act is set to introduce proposed legislation that will curtail the NSA's powers, including the warrantless collection of bulk phone metadata, in a bill named the USA Freedom Act.

The two most senior intelligence leaders, James Clapper and General Keith Alexander, are due to appear in front of the House intelligence committee the same day. It is expected they will be questioned as to why they apparently did not brief either the Whitehouse or congressional oversight committees about their surveillance of foreign leaders' communications.

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