Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., wants a special congressional committee appointed to examine the nation's spy tactics.
McCain said Tuesday that leaks of classified information and phone tapping of European leaders has been an embarrassment — and evidence that the existing policies need to be reviewed by Congress.
"I think we need a select committee," McCain said. "I'm glad that the intelligence committees are now going to review surveillance capability. Where were they the last four years? It's obvious that someone hasn't been minding the store."
McCain's remarks came as the House Intelligence Committee was questioning Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about the National Security Agency practice of tapping telephone calls.
The revelations were drawn from classified documents stolen by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Those documents also showed that the NSA has been listening in on the calls of European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which has angered European allies.
"This has damaged our Image in the world," McCain said.
McCain said Congress must review how the federal government awards security clearances in the wake of Snowden's theft of massive amounts of NSA data and the distribution of thousands of pages of classified information by Army Pvt. Bradley Manning.
"How do we get people clearances and if we do give people clearances, why in the hell would a private in the Army have access to secret information?" McCain said. "Why would an employee of a contractor have information that he absolutely has no possible reason to know?"
McCain said too many people are gaining access to classified material in part because of the federal government's move to prevent the "stove-piping" of information that blocked inter-agency data sharing prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"We are paying a very heavy price for sharing information with people that didn't to have the need to know," McCain said.