NSA doesn’t deny spying on members of Congress
The National Security Agency did not deny spying on members of Congress in its response to a letter from Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont).
Citing concerns over revelations that the NSA has been collecting bulk data on phone calls, emails, and Internet communications in the U.S. as well as intercepting calls made by foreign leaders, including those of U.S. allies such as Germany, France, Brazil, and Mexico, Sanders wrote a letter to NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander to inquire whether the agency has ever spied on U.S. elected officials.
“I am writing today to ask you one very simple question. Has the NSA spied, or is the NSA currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials?” according to Sanders’s letter dated Jan. 3rd. “‘Spying’ would include gathering metadata on calls made from official or personal phones, content from websites visited or emails sent, or collecting any other data from a third party not made available to the general public in the regular course of business.”
According to The Guardian, the NSA issued the following statement on Saturday in response to Sanders’s inquiry:
“NSA’s authorities to collect signal includes procedures that protect the privacy of US persons. Such protections are built into and cut across the entire process. Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons. NSA is fully committed to transparency with Congress. Our interaction with Congress has been extensive both before and since the media disclosures began last June.
“We are reviewing Senator Sander’s letter now, and we will continue to work to ensure that all members of Congress, including Senator Sanders, have information about NSA’s mission, authorities, and programs to fully inform the discharge of their duties.”
What’s notable about the NSA’s response is that it didn’t deny spying on members of Congress. The agency’s statement noted that elected officials’ phone, email, and Internet communications are treated the same as any other U.S. persons’ communications. This means that NSA is collecting – and, perhaps, analyzing – every U.S. lawmakers’ phone and Internet communications.
“Are we a ‘free society’, which we tout ourselves to be, we claim to be, if the United States government knows every phone call you’ve made, knows where you are, has the capability of intercepting your emails and knows the websites that you’ve visited. Is that what a free society is about?” Sanders told WPTZ-TV.
Shortly after Sanders issued his letter, the Director National Intelligence announced that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has renewed – for the 36th time since May 2006 – the NSA’s authority to collect telephone metadata of nearly all call made and received in the United States under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. The telephone metadata collected by the NSA contain information such as the numbers dialed, the date and time of the call, and the duration of the call.
The FISA court’s renewal of the NSA’s Section 215 authority came just weeks after two federal judges issued two contradictory rulings about the lawfulness of the bulk phone data collection program. In mid-December, Judge Richard J. Leon of the U.S. District Court in D.C. ruled that the NSA’s mass phone surveillance program “likely” violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures. Later that month, Judge William H. Pauley III of the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York tossed out a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, ruling that the bulk telephony metadata program is likely constitutional.
- sanders.senate.gov: Letter from Sen. Sanders to Gen. Keith Alexander – Jan. 3, 2014 (PDF)
- sanders.senate.gov: Sanders on the NSA – WPTZ-TV – Jan. 6, 2014
- dni.gov: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Approves Government’s Application to Renew Telephony Metadata Program
- theguardian.com: NSA statement does not deny ‘spying’ on members of Congress
- WhatTheFolly.com: Federal judge dismisses ACLU’s lawsuit to halt NSA’s phone surveillance program
- WhatTheFolly.com: Federal judge rules NSA bulk data collection is likely unconstitutional
- WhatTheFolly.com: Washington Post: NSA collecting nearly 5 billion cellphone location records per day
- WhatTheFolly.com: NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden seeks “permanent political asylum” in Brazil
- WhatTheFolly.com: Microsoft will expand encryption in response government ‘snooping’
- WhatTheFolly.com: Documents released by Edward Snowden reveal NSA surveillance on Germany & European allies
- WhatTheFolly.com: U.S. files Espionage Act charges against Snowden
- WhatTheFolly.com: Senators demand answers from Director of National Intelligence on NSA’s bulk data collection programs
- WhatTheFolly.com: NSA Surveillance Programs
Category: Analysis, Civil Liberties, Congress, Current Events, Feature, Government, Intelligence Community, International, News, NSA, Technology, U.S. · Tags: Bernie Sanders, civil liberties, Congress, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Keith Alexander, metadata, national security, National Security Agency, NSA, Patriot Act, Patriot Act Section 215, phone records, privacy, surveillance, terrorism, terrorists, The Guardian, U.S., United States, US Senate, Vermont